Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Friday, June 21, 2013

2013-06-20 "USDA Slashes Food for Women, Children, Subsidizes Wineries Instead"

by Ben Shapiro [http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/06/20/USDA-slashes-care-subsidies]:
On Wednesday, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs penned a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pointing out waste and abuse within the department that could be cut in order to pay for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance that the department slashed for 600,000 women and children. Coburn points out that despite sequestration, on April 4, representatives from the USDA Rural Development Office held “a workshop on their agency’s economic development and affordable housing programs” for residents of Martha’s Vineyard. Clearly, affordable housing is not the key issue in an area whose cheapest home is listed at $260,000 (a two-bedroom condo). In fact, Coburn points out, the “entire island of Martha’s Vineyard has been designated as a rural area eligible for taxpayer backed home loans by USDA.”
That’s not the only giant waste of money. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the USDA will now provide “free meals to all children 18 years of age or younger this summer through the Summer Café program of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) regardless of need.”
The USDA Rural Development agency also touted a program to subsidize the Wine Barn LLC in “marketing and increasing production of its Kansas produced wine.” That cost $25,000. The USDA Rural Development also said it would hand $300,000 to the Mackinaw Trail Winery in Michigan, $100,000 for the Appleton Creek Winery in New York, $162,500 for the Old Westminster Winery in Maryland, and tens of thousands of dollars to wineries in Nebraska and Iowa.
Liquor is the name of the game for the USDA, apparently – they’re also subsidizing the production of vodka in North Carolina, Bloody Mary mix in West Virginia, and hard cider in Virginia.
The USDA has also awarded value-added producer grants for social media for pickles, pizza, and ice cream.
Coburn asked for a full list of savings and efficiencies the USDA has implemented to reduce impacts of sequestration by July 22.

2013-02-18 "A Fifth of Americans Go Hungry"
from "Validated Independent News" [http://www.mediafreedominternational.org/2013/02/18/a-fifth-of-americans-go-hungry-2/]:
An August 2012 Gallup poll showed 18.2 percent of Americans lacked sufficient money for needed food at least once over the previous year. To make matters worse, the worst drought in half a century impacted 80 percent of agricultural lands in the country, increasing food prices. Despite this, in 2012 Congress considered cutting support for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as part of the 2013 farm bill.
Proposed Senate cuts would cost about 500,000 households about $90 a month in nutritional assistance. Proposed cuts in the House of Representatives would go much farther than the ones in the Senate, and would have kicked at least 1.8 million people of off food stamps. Republicans controlling the House have been eager to cut spending and were the primary supporters of food stamp cuts.
Opponents of the cuts have expressed concern over the harm the cuts would cause to more vulnerable members of society, namely seniors, children, and working families. Rising food prices would hit Southern states the hardest, while Mountain Plains and Midwest states would be least affected. Despite all the food hardship, the National Resources Defense Council reported 40 percent of food in the country goes to waste.
Source: Mike Ludwig, “Millions Go Hungry as Congress Considers Food Stamp Cuts and Drought Threatens Crops,” Truthout, August 23, 2012. [http://truth-out.org/news/item/11067-millions-go-hungry-as-congress-considers-food-stamp-cuts-and-drought-threatens-crops]
Student Researcher: Noah Tenney, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth, Sonoma State University

2013-06-21 "Another Brick in the Wall: Supreme Court Shields Corporations From the Law (As Usual)"

by Nan Aron  from "CommonDreams.org" [http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/21-6]:
Brick by brick, a wall of protection is being erected around large, powerful corporations to ensure that they never have to be held accountable for their actions or inconvenienced by the legal system that governs the rest of us. For the Roberts Supreme Court, this is the corporations' world; we just live in it.
Even as the public anxiously awaits the outcome of the "big four" civil rights cases still pending before the Court, another case was decided on Thursday that will have far-reaching implications for every American and for the future of the rule of law itself.
In "American Express v. Italian Colors" [http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-133_19m1.pdf], a five-justice conservative majority continued its relentless effort to shield corporations from any accountability for alleged violations of federal laws. Although the case, involving American Express' use of its monopoly power to overcharge small businesses in credit card swipe fees, may sound esoteric, the decision has sweeping implications for the enforcement of a whole host of federal rights.
The decision dealt with the forced arbitration clauses that are included in the agreements between American Express and small businesses that take the company's charge and credit cards, and are in the same vein as those forced on consumers in the ubiquitous small-print contracts that are increasingly a part of daily life [http://www.afj.org/connect-with-the-issues/access-to-justice/eliminating-forced-arbitration.html]. In this instance, the language of the agreements prohibits businesses (in this case a restaurant called Italian Colors) from joining together with other similar businesses to challenge AmEx through class arbitration for what they believe to be illegal practices.
The problem is that no one can effectively challenge this kind of widespread and complex misbehavior without undertaking research that would cost far more than any single small company can afford or could collect if it eventually won the case. The only way the challenge could meaningfully go forward is if numerous small businesses that felt similarly aggrieved could pool their resources and go up against AmEx together.
The Court ruled that the agreement between AmEx and the restaurant says there can be no class arbitrations and that's all there is to it, even though federal antitrust laws govern the principles that are in dispute. For the conservative majority, the ban on class actions, which was written by the corporation into the agreement, trumps any interest in enforcing longstanding antitrust laws -- and presumably, any other bedrock consumer protection, civil rights, or labor law. It's a shame, they say, the system is rigged so that you can't possibly win the case, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.
The Court established a legal Catch-22. You are allowed to challenge the powerful corporation through arbitration, but you have to do it on an individual basis. But an individual challenge can never succeed because the cost of making the case is so high no one can afford to undertake it on their own. Voila! A process to resolve disputes has been established that effectively can never be used. How convenient for American Express!
As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her blistering dissent [http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-133_19m1.pdf]: "And here is the nutshell version of today's opinion, admirably flaunted rather than camouflaged: Too darn bad."
The Italian Colors ruling is not an isolated event, nor was the holding mandated by the text of the Federal Arbitration Act. The conservative majority continued its trend of reaching, often beyond the bounds of reason, to grant powerful interests an ever-increasing shield against the rest of the country. What's more, this wall of immunity has been built quietly, in cases that rewrite statutory and procedural rules to make it harder for Americans to ever have their claims heard in court.
In Iqbal v. Twombly, for example, the Supreme Court altered federal pleading standards, which has led to an increase in the number of civil rights claims dismissed before even reaching trial. In "AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion" [http://www.afj.org/connect-with-the-issues/the-corporate-court/arbitration-activism-how-the-corporate-court-helps-business-evade-our-civil-justice-system.pdf], another forced arbitration case, the Court gave AT&T a license to steal millions of dollars from its customers in illegally collected fees. In "Wal-Mart v. Dukes" [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJHaGsTpuls], a conservative majority made it significantly more difficult for victims of employment discrimination to band together as a class and hold corporations accountable for widespread malfeasance.
We are rapidly approaching a time when there is a private set of laws for big corporations, created and enforced by and for themselves and separate from the system that governs the rest of us. These rules, codified in the myriad contracts and agreements that govern countless everyday commercial transactions, have effectively relegated our laws and Constitutional guarantees to secondary status. By saying that the provisions of these agreements override rights well established in federal law, five justices have engaged in an astonishing abdication of their traditional role of protecting the rule of law.
Fortunately, Congress can -- and must -- act to restore the ability of Americans to hold powerful defendants accountable in federal court. The Arbitration Fairness Act [http://afjjusticewatch.blogspot.com/2013/05/arbitration-fairness-act-would-reopen.html], introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson and Sen. Al Franken, would prevent civil rights, consumer, employment, and antitrust claims from being forced into arbitration. Alliance for Justice strongly supports this legislation, and all efforts to tear down the wall of protection and corporate privilege erected by this Court and ensure that all Americans are able to stand up for their rights.

Federal Congressional Legislation guided by corporate profit-motives, not Human & Civil Rights

2013-06-10 "Congressional staffers: Businesses trustworthy"
by Bryan Tau from "Politico.com" [http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/hill-staffers-business-trustworthy-92492.html]:
Corporations are still seen as trustworthy and necessary by Capitol Hill staffers, according to a new survey of them — with organized labor lagging behind.
A survey of 328 bipartisan congressional staff by the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University and the Original U.S. Congress Handbook finds that 65 percent of Hill staffers have a positive opinion of corporations — calling them very or somewhat trustworthy.
Less than half — 49 percent — of Capitol Hill professionals say the same about organized labor. Still, 61 percent of Hill staffers agreed with the statement that labor was important in protecting workers from “bad” working conditions.
The poll also finds that 71 percent of Hill staffers found meetings with CEOs and top executives useful to their jobs, while only 45 percent said the same about meetings with labor leaders.
In addition, 64 percent of Hill staffers said that meeting with corporate lobbyists was a helpful activity in formulating policy, while only 45 percent reported that meeting with labor lobbyists was useful.
The poll comes amid rising complaints from the private sector that Capitol Hill doesn’t understand or appreciate business. In particular, corporations have been agitating loudly against the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law, saying it will raise prices and depress hiring.
“The great news from the research is that Capitol Hill has a strong and deep commitment to our economic system,” said GW adjunct political management professor David Rehr, who led the study.
“They understand the need for profit, job creation and the positive impact business has on local communities,” Rehr, a former business leader himself at numerous trade associations, said.
Small businesses, nonprofits and the public sector all maintain even higher levels of trust on the Hill than the corporate sector.
The survey finds that 88 percent of Hill staffers have a positive opinion of nonprofits — even as the IRS scandal has renewed debate about the role of nonprofits in campaigns and elections. In addition, 83 percent of staffers called small business trustworthy, and 76 percent said that small businesses created the majority American jobs.
And Capitol Hill staffers — all federal employees — overwhelmingly trust governments at all levels.
A full 90 percent of Hill staffers surveyed called state and local government trustworthy, while 86 percent said the same about the federal government. The poll found 52 percent of staffers believed the federal government helps business create jobs.
The poll surveyed 328 congressional staff — 46 percent Democrats, 40 percent Republicans and 7 percent independents — between May 10 and 28.

Fascists are destroying legal programs for disabled, low-income folks in New York City

2013-06-21 "Strikers Defend Legal Services for the Poor" 
by "Ian Davie" from "Labor Notes" [www.labornotes.org/blogs/2013/06/strikers-defend-legal-services-poor]:
Attorneys and other professionals who are defend tenants, domestic violence survivors, and people with disabilities in New York are entering their sixth week on strike. Drastic benefits cuts would turn their job into a revolving door, they say, eroding the quality of legal advocacy available to low-income people. Photo: Jim Provost.

Attorneys and other professionals who are defend tenants, domestic violence survivors, and people with disabilities in New York are entering their sixth week on strike. Drastic benefits cuts would turn their job into a revolving door, they say, eroding the quality of legal advocacy.
Through the windows of his office tower a few blocks from Wall Street, Joseph Genova can surely see them: a 10-foot-tall inflated rat, placards bearing his face, and picketers chanting upward in unison. Genova is board chair of Legal Services NYC, whose attorneys work for the poor: defending tenants’ rights, representing victims of domestic violence, helping people claim disability benefits [www.labornotes.org/blogs/2013/04/npr-attacks-disability-bolsters-new-consensus-against-welfare], and preventing foreclosures [www.labornotes.org/2013/03/home-where-fight]. But 217 attorneys, paralegals, and other professionals are now entering their sixth week on strike. They are members of the Legal Services Staff Association (United Auto Workers Local 2320, National Organization of Legal Services Workers).
“Our low-income clients deserve quality legal services and we deserve a fair contract,” said Tyler Somes, a paralegal in the Staten Island office. “We’re fighting to prevent millionaire members of the board of directors from undermining this organization and its commitment to this city’s most vulnerable populations.” The nonprofit Legal Services NYC is the nation’s largest provider of low-income civil legal services. It serves more than 40,000 people every year. Led by multimillionaire Genova, partner at a high-end law firm, LSNYC’s demands for deep cuts to employees’ health care and retirement benefits forced workers out on strike in mid-May.

Attack on Much-Needed Services -
Walls of glass and steel separate Genova from the protesters, but a short ferry ride away, Mohammad Hassan views the strike through a more personal lens. Hassan, an immigrant from Egypt, a taxi driver, and a former small business owner thwarted by the financial crisis, struggled to keep his Staten Island home with the help of advocates from LSNYC.
“Without the skilled secretaries, paralegals, and attorneys who helped my family through the court system, I likely would not be sitting in this home right now,” he said. “I know they don’t make high salaries, but they should not be forced into cuts to health care and retirement benefits that will prevent them from continuing their work.” For Hassan and other low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford attorneys, LSNYC, essentially a citywide collection of community-based organizations, represents a last line of defense.

Job Could Become Revolving Door -
Salaries at LSNYC are modest for the industry. An attorney with five years’ experience earns less than $72,000—compared with $230,000 at Genova’s firm, Milbank Tweed. Attorneys and lower-paid staff have relied on sustainable health care and retirement benefits to forge a career at LSYNC. But now LSNYC, with Genova at the helm, has proposed to slash these benefits. If that happens, strikers worry, it will be difficult to make a long-term career of working for the poor. LSNYC could become a revolving door, at the expense of low-income people who desperately need experienced advocates.
“By demanding cuts to benefits, especially at a time when they can’t substantiate a need [for the cuts], they are telling these communities ‘you don’t deserve an attorney with experience, because we’re not going to maintain a system that allows advocates to forge a career,'” said Maura McHugh Mills, a senior attorney with eight years of experience in the Bronx office. Genova, a multimillionaire with a condo on the Brooklyn waterfront and a home in the Hamptons, is trying his scheme on the backs of New York City’s most vulnerable.

Cuts without a Cause -
The approach is as unnecessary as it is common in these days of so-called austerity and budget sequesters. LSNYC, led by Genova, uses conservative funding projections to justify cuts to employee benefits. These projections exaggerate the future effects of Congressional funding changes, while ignoring state, city, foundation, and private funding the organization has already received to help fill the gap.
Meanwhile, LSNYC recently confirmed it will receive more federal funding than it had forecast through 2015—and expects to end the year with millions of dollars in surplus. (Both sides propose that the union contract would run through June 2014.) Nonetheless, striking employees have offered concessions, including an unprecedented contribution to health care premiums and reductions in coverage, to substantially address the same cost savings Genova and LSNYC have sought.
The union also points out that LSNYC employs one high-salary manager for every three case-handling advocates—compared with a one-to-five ratio at the Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit that provides similar services. Management has refused to consider changes to this wasteful top-heaviness.

Hardball Tactics -
Genova has not shied away from hardball. As soon as the strike started, LSNYC terminated health benefits without notice to employees—who only learned of the move weeks later when their doctors denied care. Employees eventually received COBRA notice letters and the UAW ultimately stepped in to ensure continuing coverage, but the administrative delay due to lack of notice resulted in more than one emergency room visit.
Families who could not fill prescriptions or take their children to the doctor felt immediate effects. LSNYC had never before terminated health benefits during a labor dispute. The move came as a shock to workers and supporters—especially since, in its first five years of existence, LSNYC fought and won the landmark 1970 case Goldberg v. Kelly, which secured due process rights to employees for “timely and adequate notice detailing the reasons for a proposed termination” of benefits. Forty-three years later, with Genova at the helm, the irony is apparent. The clients who rely on LSNYC do not have an official seat at the bargaining table—but even on strike, union members are fighting on their behalf by defending the organization’s future. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

2013-06-20 "Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother"

by Norman Solomon from "Common Dreams" [http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/20-2]:
A terrible formula has taken hold: warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.
“National security” agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. “Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors,” the New York Times noted [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/opinion/prying-private-eyes.html]. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.
“Much of the coverage of the NSA spying scandal has underplayed crucial context: The capacity of the government to engage in constant surreptitious monitoring of all civilians has been greatly enhanced by the commercialization of the Internet,” media analyst Robert McChesney pointed out this week [http://www.accuracy.org/release/nsa-spying-helped-by-military-digital-complex-and-commercialized-internet/].
Overall, he said, “the commercialized Internet, far from producing competition, has generated the greatest wave of monopoly in the history of capitalism.” And the concentration of online digital power is, to put it mildly, user-friendly for the surveillance state.
It’s a truly odious and destructive mix -- a government bent on perpetual war and a digital tech industry dominated by a few huge firms with an insatiable drive to maximize profits. Those companies have a lot to offer the government, and vice versa.
“The giant monopolistic firms that rule the Internet -- Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Version, AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft -- all have tremendous incentive to collect information on people,” McChesney said. “There is a great deal of profit for these firms and others to work closely with the national security apparatus, and almost no incentive to refuse to participate. In short, there is a military-digital complex deeply embedded into the political economy and outside any credible review process by elected representatives, not to mention the public.”
Central pieces of the puzzle -- routinely left out of mainline media coverage -- have to do with key forces at work. Why such resolve in Washington’s highest places for the vast surveillance that’s integral to the warfare state?
What has not changed is the profusion of corporations making a killing from the warfare state in tandem with Washington’s quest for geopolitical positioning, access to fossil fuels and other raw materials -- and access to markets for U.S.-based industries ranging from financial services to fast food.
Let’s give credit to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman for candor as he wrote approvingly in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
On Wednesday, I had a brief on-air exchange with Friedman, live on KQED Radio in San Francisco [http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201306191000].
Solomon: “I think it’s unfortunate the sensibility that Thomas Friedman, who’s a very smart guy, has brought to bear in so many realms. For instance, we heard a few minutes ago, asked about Iraq and the lessons to be drawn -- quote, ‘We overpaid for it.’ ‘We overpaid for it.’ Which is sort of what you might call jingo-narcissism, to coin a term. Just the dire shortage of remorse, particularly given Thomas Friedman’s very large role in cheering on, with his usual caveats, but cheering on the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Full disclosure, this is Norman Solomon, I chronicled his critique in my book War Made Easy, his critique of foreign policy, and he did cheerlead -- in his sort of kind of erudite glib way, he did cheerlead the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Just as, as I chronicle in the book, he was gleeful in his columns about the bombing of Serbia, including Belgrade, civilian areas, just chortled and very very gleeful about that bombing. One other point I’d like to make. His recent column about NSA surveillance is absolutely a formula for throwing away the First Amendment gradually in stages. The idea that somehow we should relinquish the sacred Fourth Amendment, a little bit at a time, maybe not a little bit at a time, because if there’s terrorism that takes places in a big way again in this country then hold onto your hats -- I mean, that is formulaic as an excuse, may I say a bit of a craven way, to accept this attack on our civil liberties.”
Host: “Norman, let me thank you for the call and get a response from Tom Friedman.”
Friedman: “Well first of all, I would invite, I wrote a book called Longitudes and Attitudes that has all my columns leading up to the Iraq War. And what you’ll find if you read those columns is someone agonizing over a very very difficult decision. To call it cheerleading is just stupid and obnoxious. Okay. Number one. And on the question of the Fourth Amendment, as has been pointed out, there actually has been no case of abuse that has been reported so far with this program. Believe me, if there were one, two, ten or twenty, then I think we’d be having a very different debate. And so to simply -- he says I’m dismissing the Fourth Amendment, which is ludicrous, I’m terribly agonized over this whole business -- but to simply blithely say, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to use the threat of another terrorist attack,’ as if that isn’t a live possibility, as if we haven’t had three or four real examples of people trying to do things that had they gotten through I think would have led to even worse restrictions on privacy and civil liberties.”
Well, that’s Thomas Friedman, in sync with the downward spiral of fear, threats, militarism and corporate consolidation. What a contrast with the clarity from Robert McChesney.
A week before the Guardian began breaking stories about NSA surveillance, McChesney appeared on FAIR’s “CounterSpin” radio program to talk about the findings in his new book Digital Disconnect [http://fair.org/counterspin-radio/pardiss-kebriaei-bob-mcchesney-on-digital-disconnect/]. He warned that we “have an economy dominated by a handful of monopolistic giants working hand in hand with a national security state that’s completely off-limits to public review, to monitor the population.” And he said: “It’s not a tenable situation for a free society.”

Patients sacrificed for private take-over of public hospitals

The process of fascism occurs under the ideology of personal profit being more important than Human Rights.

2013-06-20 "Private Equity Stalks Hospitals"
by Alexandra Bradbury from "Labor Notes" [www.labornotes.org/2013/06/private-equity-stalks-hospitals]:
Defenders of Brooklyn's Long Island College Hospital rallied yesterday against offering it up to Wall Street investors. Private equity hospital ownership has a bad track record. Photo: New York State Nurses Association.

Health care workers rushed to a Brooklyn hospital yesterday for an emergency rally to keep it "Open for Care," after administrators began diverting patients away. In New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, hospital unions are battling shadowy operators with dollar signs in their eyes.
In a war over the future of a Brooklyn hospital, health care workers rushed to Long Island College Hospital today for an emergency rally—after administrators began diverting patients to other sites.
Until today, health care workers had succeeded in keeping LICH “Open for Care,” but they are battling last-minute legislative maneuvers and a threatened Wall Street takeover. Beginning at 6 a.m. today, ambulances were instructed to divert patients to other facilities, and physicians were to begin transferring their patients away. The hospital’s actions flew in the face of a judge’s temporary restraining order directing it to maintain staffing levels.
Today’s was the second emergency rally this week. The hospital’s defenders rallied yesterday against state legislators’ revived efforts to allow private equity investors to take over certain hospitals, including LICH. It’s not currently legal for for-profit companies to own hospitals in New York. One bill would create five “pilot programs” for private equity to invest in New York hospitals. Another would open the door to for-profit ownership of Brooklyn hospitals specifically.
“For-profit health care kills,” said nurse Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association. “I’ve seen it in other states.” Long Island College Hospital sits on prime real estate in a gentrifying part of Brooklyn. That’s why its owner, the State University of New York, tried to close it down, nurses charge. To developers—who’d like to put condos there—the hospital would be worth more dead than alive.
Thanks to a boisterous campaign by NYSNA [www.labornotes.org/2013/04/saving-hospital-keeping-profit-out-patient-care], Service Employees 1199, and community allies, two months ago the state backed off its plan to close LICH. Supporters are now working with SUNY to find a new operator committed to keeping it open. But a private equity firm isn’t the kind of new boss they had in mind. Private equity’s business model is to borrow large sums, buy up companies, pay off the debt by slashing costs—especially workers’ pay and benefits—and pay out big dividends with what’s left over, then sell off the ruined husk of the company [www.labornotes.org/2012/12/hostess-workers-take-private-equity-pirates]. It’s a ruthless way of making a lot of money fast. (Ironically, a lot of private equity capital comes from union members’ pension funds [www.labornotes.org/2013/02/union-pension-fund-finances-runaway-shop-0].) SUNY has made no secret of its intention to ditch LICH, and says it already has bites from several would-be operators. It’s clear any for-profit hospital experiments will target LICH and other struggling Brooklyn hospitals in low-income communities of color, nurses say. “We won’t let our patients suffer so that Wall Street investors can make more money,” Furillo said.

Pension Snatched Away -
Workers in the former Caritas Christi Health Care system in Massachusetts have already gotten a taste of what it means when Wall Street becomes your boss. In one sense, they even took advantage of the situation to win something remarkable. Nurses got the company to agree to create a Taft-Hartley defined-benefit pension plan—“which is sort of unheard of these days,” said Betsy Prescott, a Massachusetts Nurses Association leader at St. Elizabeth Medical Center [www.labornotes.org/2011/12/nurses-say-private-equity-firm-starving-massachusetts-hospitals]. “People are getting them taken away, not getting new ones.” Closing the 2010 sale of Caritas’s six hospitals (four were union) to Cerberus Capital Management depended on successful ratification of union contracts, so “Caritas did everything to make us happy and settle,” Prescott said.
The catch? Their new employer, Cerberus’s Steward Health Care, then refused to honor that pension. Steward also set about laying people off. “I’m not saying it was all just to save money,” Prescott says: the patient census had dropped. Still, the decline was dramatic—nine rounds of layoffs between 2011 and 2012. At one point, the company laid off six newly hired nurses on their third day of orientation.
Obsessed with cost savings, the company also cut back on patient food and turned down the temperature on heating blankets for chemotherapy patients [www.labornotes.org/2011/12/nurses-say-private-equity-firm-starving-massachusetts-hospitals]. “We can’t even give patients a cup of coffee,” said Cheryl Laorenza, a psychiatric nurse at one of Steward’s hospitals, in 2011.

Fancy New Facilities -
When it comes to buildings, Steward has been more generous, living up to its promise to invest in the properties: a brand new emergency room here, three units gutted and redone there, all in state-of-the art style. And the union and the company are back at the table talking about the pension now. “We are working with Steward for resolution, through the arbitration process,” Prescott said. “If we can make this work, it could be a model for across the country.” But the hospital made only a three-year commitment to St. Elizabeth (and Carney Hospital in Boston). That means the hospitals could be flipped to another owner in November. Is Steward investing in the properties, and not the staff, only because it’s preparing to sell again? “Those are the worries you live with,” said Prescott, “when you’re for-profit.”

Prime Targets -
New York state has so far kept for-profit health care out, but across the Hudson in New Jersey, it has a toehold—eight hospitals—and members of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, an AFT affiliate, are fighting to block the profit-mongers from ballooning any further. “These hospital conversions from not-for-profit to for-profit I believe are at a tipping point,” HPAE President Ann Twomey told a state senate committee in May, “threatening to undermine access to care and affordability of care for our communities.” California-based Prime Healthcare Services is poised to buy up five more New Jersey hospitals. HPAE wants New Jersey to tighten the rules: only allowing a conversion when it’s impossible for the hospital to remain nonprofit, requiring more financial transparency and a ten-year commitment to keep the hospital open, mandating a study of the sale’s likely impacts on community health, and upping the requirements of charity care, among other proposals.

'Nurse Interns' -
At Meadowlands Hospital, the union’s members are in a big fight with its owner, a shadowy group of private, for-profit investors called MHA. A Labor Board complaint this month charged Meadowlands management with unilaterally cutting union members’ health insurance and retirement benefits, conducting video surveillance of union activity, and hiring 200 non-union nurses at minimum wage as “nurse interns” in an effort to circumvent the contract. (The hospital targeted newly-graduated nurses and older nurses without hospital experience, presumably desperate for work in the down economy. The union says, as licensed nurses, they should have been covered by the contract and paid nurse rates, which start at $28 an hour.)
The company also sold the land beneath Meadowlands to a subsidiary of Canadian real estate giant Rosdev Development. These kinds of leaseback arrangements are on the rise: the owner sells the land, pocketing a short-term windfall, then leases it from the buyer, who gets long-term income from rent. But workers and community members get nervous, wondering what such a scheme means for their hospital’s future—and details of the contracts, like what happens if the hospital defaults on rent, are secret. Twomey called such deals “totally opaque.”
The IRS and the Health Department have beefs with Meadowlands management, too. Another for-profit, Community Health Systems, is still refusing to bargain a first contract with nurses at Memorial Hospital of Salem County—who organized and won their election to join HPAE three years ago. “We once thought that if we set strong enough [union] standards and protections, we could maintain quality services, and safe staffing and working conditions,” Twomey said. “But we now know that we need to strengthen our laws and strengthen our oversight.” 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Private investors make sure State governments pre-empt paid sick-leave laws for workers

2013-06-17 "Florida’s Governor Signs Business-Backed Bill Banning Paid Sick Leave"
by Bryce Covert from "Think Progress" [thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/06/17/2165671/rick-scott-paid-sick-leave]:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a bill on Friday that blocks local governments from implementing paid sick leave legislation, the Orlando Sentinel reports [www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-scott-signs-local-paid-sick-time-ban-20130614,0,6200216.story]. He made his decision quickly, only taking four of the 15 days he legally had to review the bill before he signed it.
In signing the bill, Scott sided with big business interests including Disney World, Darden Restaurants (owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster), and the Florida Chamber of Commerce [thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/04/29/1934871/alec-orchestrated-bill-to-preempt-paid-sick-leave-passes-florida-senate]. The bill is part of a national effort to pass so-called “preemption bills” that would block paid sick leave legislation that is backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing group that coordinates conservative laws across states [thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/04/03/1817161/alec-florida-paid-sick]. The state’s House Majority Leader, Steve Precourt (R), who was instrumental in putting forward the preemption bill, is an active ALEC member.
The bill has made moot a 2014 referendum in Orange County that would have decided whether to require paid sick leave [thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/04/29/1934871/alec-orchestrated-bill-to-preempt-paid-sick-leave-passes-florida-senhttpate]. More than 50,000 voters had tried to get the measure on the November 6 ballot but the County Commission voted it off. It made it on the ballot in 2014 thanks to a three-judge panel.
Florida follows a rash of preemption bills in the states, which cropped up in Wisconsin [thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/07/29/283454/judge-milwaukee-sick-days-over], Michigan [www.michiganradio.org/post/michigan-lawmakers-consider-blocking-local-paid-sick-leave-ordinances], and Mississippi [thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/02/27/1644821/mississippi-republicans-would-prohibit-towns-from-establishing-a-minimum-wage]. These bills are part of ALEC’s efforts to weaken wage and labor standards: Since 2011, 67 such ALEC-affiliated bills have been introduced in state legislatures, 11 of which had been signed into law before Scott signed this bill [thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/03/13/1711511/how-alec-is-fueling-efforts-to-block-paid-sick-leave-and-other-pro-worker-policies].
Big business stood in opposition to the Orange County effort on paid sick leave because it claimed such a bill would drive up costs. Yet a study of San Francisco, which enacted a paid sick leave policy in 2007, showed that a majority of businesses saw either no impact or a positive one on profitability [thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/03/29/1796881/bloomberg-sick-day-veto]. Other research has shown such policies to be good for business and job growth [thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/03/28/1786401/new-york-quinn-sick].

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


a message from Luke Hiken, June 12, 2013, for Progressive Avenues
Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, military, immigration, and appellate law. 
The French were right: the best way to deal with the rich is to behead them - at least figuratively, if not physically. Opposing capital punishment does not mean that the ruling class, i.e. the rich, should be exempt from punishment or consequences for their crimes against the poor – it only means that unnecessary killing is unwarranted. By disenfranchising the rich, distributing their money to the people they have stolen it from, and ensuring that they will be powerless to commit similar crimes in the future, the guillotine can remain a bloody remnant of history, instead of a portent for the future.
In this day and age, it is the rich, and not the poor, who use weapons of mass destruction, drones, special operations forces, military coups, and other vehicles of violence to dominate and protect their interests. The rest of the dispossessed people of the world are and will continue to be pawns and victims of ruling class oppression until the balance of wealth and power is unalterably shifted.
For some ungodly reason, we in America adore the rich. They fill the social columns of our newspapers, dominate the nightly news, and enthrall us with their wealth and power. The sycophants and media propagandists endlessly inundate us with the latest news about Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Warren Buffet, the Koch Brothers, Goldman Sachs, or the other pigs of the moment. When the glorification and deification of the rich is completed, the news switches to subjects more appropriate for the poor and the rest of us: crime, sexual deviance, gang warfare, or the other failures of "our" class.
The poet, Roger Bly, in his work “Anger Against Children,” describes the contradiction eloquently:
Our children live with a fear at school and in the house.
The mother and father do not protect the younger child from the savagery
of the others.
Parents don't want to face the children's rage,
Because the parents are also in rage.
This is the rage that shouts at children.
This is the rage than cannot be satisfied.
So the rage goes inward at last,
It ends in doubt, in self-doubt, dyeing the hair, and love of celebrities.
The rage comes to rest at last in the talk show late at night,
When the celebrities without anger or grief tell us that only the famous are
good, only they live well.

Instead of demonizing the rich, and recognizing the devastating impact they have on the community, on nations throughout the world, on working people, on our environment, and on every aspect of human life as we know it, we treat them as “lucky” or “skilful” or “deserving” because they work “so hard” or effectively. We praise them, and seek to emulate their successes and “importance to business” and the community. What nonsense and garbage! These are murdering bastards, who should be prevented immediately, from preying further upon people everywhere. The “1%,” as they are referred to by the Occupy Movement, are poisoning the entire community.
It is obvious that you can’t control the rich by “taxing” them. They own the Congress, and write the tax codes to protect their wealth, and protect them from having to share their wealth with the public. You can’t “regulate” their corporate profits or abuses, because they define the regulations, and immunize themselves from liability or responsibility for their misbehavior. You can’t vote them out of office, because they own the electoral process, and buy the candidates for both of the so-called political parties – institutions that are wholly owned subsidiaries of the rich. The very concept of “democracy” is a charade and a farce in this country, and nobody but media whores even pretend that the people of this country have any control whatsoever over their livelihoods or future.
Challenging the authority of the rich to control every aspect of our lives results in unending criminal prosecutions, which is why we have the largest prison population in the history of the world. Torture, murder, and “deportation” are the consequences of opposing the rich, and attempts to limit their abuses are met with the most draconian penalties known to society. The fascist judges appointed by decades of Republicans and bought-off Democrats obey every command issued by the rich. No country in the history of the world has had more police, military personnel or mercenaries than the U.S.A. We have become the essence of the police state we fought against in World War II.
What those who glorify the rich don’t realize is how much damage they cause to the rest of the world. As beneficiaries of worldwide imperialism, the citizens of the U.S. are the last to understand the implications of our international carnage. It would be impossible to count the number of democratically elected regimes that the U.S. has overthrown internationally. For the last 80 years, we have financed, supported, and carried out coups against any nation that would not do the bidding of U.S. capital. We have done to the world what we did to the Native Americans of this country: annihilated any and all opposition.
The impact that our imperialism has had on the rest of the world is unimaginable: rather than allowing the rest of the world’s people to live in peace and democracy, we have subjected them to same form of ruling class ownership that we have allowed here at home. And the fools who watch Fox News can’t figure out “why they hate us.”
But recently, in the very heart of America, poor people are feeling the whips of ruling class greed and brutality: homelessness, unemployment, lack of adequate health care, the disappearance of public education are all on the rise. Poverty abounds, while the rich bask in their obscene wealth. The majority of Americans understand that power must be challenged in this country, it is just that nobody knows how to do it. The rich are so murderous and violent that any and all opposition is crushed instantaneously, and mercilessly. As revolutionaries throughout history have learned, though, at some point the only way to survive is to fight back.
The fact is that allowing the rich to hoard the wealth and power in this country results in the impoverishment of everyone else. It is criminal, violent, and unjustified. That is so regardless of what the American media says. No individual, however sick or insane, could cause the level of devastation and anguish caused by the Pentagon, our national police state, or our local police forces. If we don’t get control over what the rich are doing to the world, and us, there won’t be an earth left to protect, let alone a democracy.
The rich don’t “create jobs,” they don’t “build the economy,” and they don’t “protect the nation.” They steal from the poor, destroy the economy of the nation, and wage war against all those who don’t give them everything they want and need. That isn’t citizenship, that is treason! Terrorists are small potatoes when compared to the harm caused by the billionaires of the world.
It is time for people to recognize their real enemies, and wage the sort of “permanent war” against them that the rich wage against the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Solitary Confinement is against Human Rights law

(Note that in the following report, as presented in "United States Fascism" archive, has numbers embedded among the text. These are footnotes, copied verbatim from the New York City BAR Association's pdf file.)

2011-09 "Supermax Confinement in U.S. Prisons" 
report from The Committee on International Human Rights of the Association of the BAR of the City of New York [42 West 44th street, New York, NY 10036], and posted at [www2.nycbar.org/pdf/report/uploads/20072165-TheBrutalityofSupermaxConfinement.pdf]:
I. Introduction -
During the past three decades, “supermax” confinement has become a widespread and integral element of prison administration in the United States (1). As many as 80,000 prisoners are held in supermax facilities or in isolation units within prisons. These prisoners endure conditions of extreme sensory deprivation for months or years on end, an excruciating experience in which the prisoner remains isolated from any meaningful human contact. Access to a telephone, books, magazines, radio, television, even sunlight and outside air may be denied or severely restricted (2).
The policy of supermax confinement, on the scale which it is currently being implemented in the United States, violates basic human rights. We believe that in many cases supermax confinement constitutes torture under international law according to international jurisprudence (3) and cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution. The time has come to critically review and reform the widespread practice of supermax confinement.
This Report first describes supermax confinement in the United States, then surveys the surprisingly limited role of courts in reviewing that practice and concludes with a number of recommendations that suggest the outlines of the reforms we believe are needed. These reforms should encompass not just the administration of supermax confinement in state and federal prisons, but also the legal framework within which this practice is reviewed by courts.
Courts in recent years have largely deferred to prison administrators with regard to the implementation and expansion of supermax confinement, stretching the limits of constitutionality so that supermax is largely immunized from judicial review. Indeed, as long as a prisoner receives adequate food and shelter, the extreme sensory deprivation that characterizes supermax confinement will, under current case law, almost always be considered within the bounds of permissible treatment.
Although supermax confinement does not produce visible scars or bruises, its impact on prisoners can be comparable to physical torture. As Senator John McCain, who experienced five years of solitary confinement as a prisoner of war, wrote, “[i]t’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment”(4). Numerous studies confirm the psychological damage caused by supermax confinement, and the adverse effects are especially pronounced for mentally ill prisoners (5). As two leading medical authorities recently wrote, “[j]ust about everyone who has taken a serious look a long-term isolated confinement (as in supermaximum security or long-term administrative segregation) has concluded there is serious harm from long-term isolated confinement”(6).
The inhumane conditions of supermax are well documented by numerous federal court decisions, blue ribbon commissions, journalists and the media (7).
One district judge observed the following about inmates in supermax confinement:
"[Inmates] can go weeks, months or potentially years with little or no opportunity for normal social contact with other people . . . . [They] remain confined to their cells for 22 and 1/2 hours of each day. Food trays are passed through a narrow food port in the cell door. Inmates eat all meals in their cells. Opportunities for social interaction with other prisoners or vocational staff are essentially precluded . . . . [S]ome inmates spend the time simply pacing around the edges of the pen; the image created is hauntingly similar to that of caged felines pacing in a zoo"(8).
The overriding rationale for supermax confinement is to impose order and maintain safety in the prison environment (9).
Other related factors for the spread of supermax confinement are the need to manage gang activity and reduce violence against prison staff and inmates. The use of supermax became more prevalent because of its perceived effectiveness in achieving these goals. See Mears and Watson, infra note 28, at 232-34.
The unmitigated suffering caused by supermax confinement, however, cannot be justified by the argument that it is an effective means to deal with difficult prisoners (10). The issue, we believe, is not whether supermax achieves its purposes or is effective at controlling and punishing unruly inmates (11).
Instead, the question is whether the vast archipelago of American supermax facilities, in which some prisoners are kept isolated indefinitely for years, should be tolerated as consistent with fundamental principles of justice. Even prisoners who have committed horrific crimes and atrocities possess basic rights to humane treatment under national and international law. Although the Constitution “does not mandate comfortable prisons”(12), it does require humane prisons that comport with the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against punishments that are “incompatible with ‘the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” or which “involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain”(13).
More recently, the Supreme Court stated that “[p]risoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons. Respect for that dignity animates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment”(14). Supermax confinement as extensively implemented in the United States falls short of this standard and must be substantially reformed.

A. Nineteenth Century Practice:
The resurgence of supermax confinement in the last three decades arose a century after the practice had been largely abandoned as inhumane and cruel. In the early nineteenth century, prison reformers viewed solitary as an effective method of compelling prisoners to achieve penitence. After observing the practice, however, many early observers condemned it. Alexis de Tocqueville reported that solitary confinement as practiced in New York in the 1820’s “proved fatal for the majority of prisoners. It devours the victims incessantly and unmercifully, it does not reform, it kills”(15).
Charles Dickens also observed a solitary confinement prison in 1842 in Pennsylvania and wrote that “there is a depth of terrible endurance in it which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom . . . this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain [is] immeasurably worse than any torture of the body”(16).
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a late nineteenth century case, was repelled by the practice. In "In re Medley" a prisoner on death row at Walnut Street Penitentiary in Philadelphia brought a habeas corpus petition challenging a state law requiring that he be kept “in solitary confinement until the infliction of the death penalty” (17). Noting that it required “the complete isolation of the prisoner from all human society, and his confinement in a cell of considerable size, so arranged that he had no direct intercourse with or sight of any human being, and no employment or instruction,” the Supreme Court grimly described the effects of solitary confinement:  "A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community. It became evident that some changes must be made in the system[.]" (19).

B. The Expansion of Supermax After 1980:
The modern period of widespread use of solitary confinement began with the construction of supermax prisons and long-term isolation units in the 1980’s, with entire prisons, or units within prisons, designed specifically to hold inmates in conditions of sensory deprivation for extended periods (20).
The first real American supermax prison of the twentieth century was created in 1983 following a riot at the federal prison in Marion, Illinois. After two guards were murdered by inmates, the prison was placed in permanent lockdown for the next twenty-three years. During that time, the inmates were kept in solitary confinement between twenty-two and twenty-three hours each day, with no human contact allowed.
Other supermax prisons were constructed as state and federal prison populations rapidly expanded. As demonstrated by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the incarceration rate has exploded in the last three decades. In 1980, there were 139 sentenced inmates incarcerated under state and federal jurisdiction per 100,000 population. By 1990, that number had more than doubled to 297 inmates per 100,000. By 2000, the number had increased to 478 per 100,000, and grew again to 502 per 100,000 by 2009. By the end of 2009, over 7.2 million people were on probation, in jail or in prison, constituting 3.1% of all U.S. adult residents (1 in every 32 adults). State and federal prison authorities had jurisdiction over 1,613,740 prisoners at year-end 2009: 1,405,622 under state jurisdiction and 208,118 under federal jurisdiction (21).
The relentless rise in the prison population over the past thirty years, during which the United States became the country with the highest rate of incarceration, created severe conditions of overcrowding and, increasingly, a public health problem (22). Faced with unprecedented numbers of inmates, prison administrators struggled to devise means to control the expanding numbers of inmates (23).
Supermax confinement became one method to address the problems resulting from this rapid increase in prison population.
There is uncertainty regarding the number of inmates held in long-term solitary confinement. The DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, which offers a wide range of numerical measures of prisons and corrections policy, offers no numbers relating to supermax or long-term solitary confinement.
A commission chaired by former Judge John Gibbons and Nicholas Katzenbach, former Attorney General of the United States estimated that 80,000 persons were confined in state and federal segregation units (24). Other estimates of the number of persons held in supermax confinement vary from “tens of thousands” (25) to “at least twenty-five thousand inmates in isolation in supermax prisons [with] . . . fifty to eighty thousand [] in restrictive segregation units, many of them in isolation”(26). Eight states keep between five and eight percent of their prison population in isolation (27).  Another researcher found that there were at least 57 supermax prisons in 40 states housing approximately 20,000 inmates (28).
 There is no dispute that large numbers of inmates are being held in solitary confinement for seemingly indefinite durations. In nearly every state, there are prisons where supermax excesses are found. In Illinois, 54 prisoners have been held in continuous solitary confinement for more than 10 years (29).
Two inmates have endured more than 30 years of solitary confinement at Louisiana State Penitentiary. In New York State, a 2003 report from the Correctional Association found that nearly 5,000 inmates, 7.6% of the total state inmate population, were held in “highly restrictive disciplinary lockdown units for 23 to 24 hours per day”(30).

C. De Facto Impunity for Supermax:
The expansion of supermax confinement practices has been largely unchecked by the courts, even though courts have detailed the appalling conditions in supermax facilities. Some courts have made findings that solitary causes mental illness and have banned the practice for those prisoners. Nevertheless, courts generally have stopped short of finding the practice of supermax confinement unconstitutional or illegal, no matter how severe or extreme unless imposed on people with an active psychosis or for whom solitary has been demonstrated to be an imminent cause of psychosis . However, courts have refused to enjoin the practice in any other circumstances despite the acute pain caused by it.
Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit found that it “seems pretty obvious[] that isolating a human being from other human beings year after year or even month after month can cause substantial psychological damage, even if the isolation is not total,” and that “there is plenty of medical and psychological literature concerning the ill effects of solitary confinement.” Davenport v. DeRobertis, 844 F.2d 1310, 1313, 1316 (7th Cir. 1988).
In Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146 (N.D.Cal. 1995), the Court also found “[s]ocial science and clinical literature have consistently reported that when human beings are subjected to social isolation and reduced environmental stimulation, they may deteriorate mentally and in some cases develop psychiatric disturbances. . . . [There is] an ample and growing body of evidence that this phenomenon may occur among persons in solitary or segregated confinement – persons who are, by definition, subject to a significant degree of social isolation and reduced environmental stimulation.” Madrid, 889 F.Supp. at 1146.
The deleterious impact of supermax is exacerbated with mentally ill inmates. According to one of the studies referred to in Madrid, in 40 of 50 inmates studied, long-term isolation “had either massively exacerbated a previous psychiatric illness or precipitated psychiatric symptoms associated with [reduced environmental stimulation] conditions.” 889 F. Supp. at 1232. The Court found that “many, if not most, inmates in the SHU [long-term isolation] experience some degree of  psychological trauma in reaction to their extreme social isolation and the severely restricted environmental stimulation in the SHU.” 889 F. Supp. at 1235. The behavior of prisoners subjected to extended solitary confinement also underscores the effects. In evaluating an extensive evidentiary record of the Texas prison system, a court described “a world in which smeared feces, self-mutilation, and incessant babbling and shrieking are almost everyday occurrences.” Ruiz v. Johnson, 37 F.Supp. 2d 855, 908 (S.D.Tex. 1999).
There are two formidable obstacles to any judicial challenge to supermax confinement: the “deliberate indifference” standard” and the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA). First, to show an Eighth Amendment violation a prisoner must show “deliberate indifference.” 429 U.S. 97 (1976). See also Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991) (to prove prison conditions violate Eighth Amendment must show “deliberate indifference” by prison officials). See also Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994) (“Eighth Amendment does not outlaw cruel and unusual ‘conditions’; it outlaws cruel and unusual ‘punishments’”). Requiring that prisoners prove that a prison official “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety,” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837, often constitutes a difficult barrier. The consequence is that if “the minimal measure of life’s necessities” are provided, Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 36 (1993), which can mean not much more than food, clothing and shelter, then evidence of psychological damage is not sufficient.
The deliberate indifference standard, though, is not always insurmountable. In Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 687 (1978), the Court applied the “deliberate indifference” standard to find that Arkansas’ practice of solitary confinement exceeding thirty days violated the Eighth Amendment. The Court found that solitary confinement “is not necessarily unconstitutional, but it may be depending on the duration of the confinement and conditions thereof. …. A filthy, overcrowded cell and a diet of ‘grue’ might be tolerable for a few days and intolerably cruel for weeks or months.”
Second, the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 imposes an additional obstacle to relief. 18 U.S.C. 2626. Intended to reduce frivolous prisoner litigation, the PLRA provides that “[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). Courts have interpreted the physical-injury requirement to dismiss Eighth Amendment claims for money damages even in egregious circumstances. In Harden-Bey v. Rutter, 524 F.3d 789 (6th Cir. 2008), for example, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an Eighth Amendment claim for damages by an inmate held for more than three years in solitary confinement “because he did not allege a physical injury,” 524 F.3d at 795, but nevertheless reinstated the inmates due process claim based on his allegation that prison officials had refused to give him a hearing.
These judicial and legislative barriers to prison litigation are relatively recent. In earlier cases, the Supreme Court took a more expansive view of the scope of prohibited conduct, and found that the measure of “cruel and unusual punishments” under the Eighth Amendment should be expected to evolve. In Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 378 (1910), for example, the Court found that a sentence of twelve-years at hard labor for falsifying public records was cruel and unusual. And in Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958), which found that the scope of Eighth Amendment is “not static,” the Court stated that the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment” should be broadly interpreted:
"[T]he basic policy reflected in these words [cruel and unusual punishment] is firmly established in the Anglo-American tradition of criminal justice. The phrase in our Constitution was taken directly from the English Declaration of Rights of 1688, and the principle it represents can be traced back to the Magna Carta. The basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man. While the State has the power to punish, the Amendment stands to assure that this power be exercised within the limits of civilized standards." 365 U.S. at 597-598 (emphasis added).
In Trop, a soldier who deserted from the U.S. Army was stripped of his citizenship. In finding that “denationalization as a punishment is barred by the Eighth Amendment,” the Court expressly found that an Eighth Amendment violation does not require physical harm. Denationalization, the Court recognized, involved “no physical mistreatment, no primitive torture.” 356 U.S. at 100. Nevertheless, the punishment violated the Eighth Amendment because it “strips the citizen of his status in the national and international community.” Id. The Court also based its decision on the “ever-increasing fear and distress” suffered by the defendant. Id. at 598-599.
Successful court challenges to supermax confinement have been rare. In Madrid v. Gomez, where 1,000 to 1,500 prisoners were isolated in windowless cells for 22 hours each day, and with an extensive evidentiary record of the impact of that isolation on prisoners, the Court found the record sufficient to establish an Eighth Amendment violation only with regard to mentally ill inmates. Madrid found that placing mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement was “shocking and indecent [and] simply has no place in civilized society.” 889 F. Supp. at 1266. Placing a mentally ill inmate in solitary confinement, the district court found, “is the mental equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air to breathe.” 889 F.Supp. at 1255. The Court also found that the prison authorities displayed “deliberate indifference” and a “callous lack of concern for the mental health of those inmates that are particularly at risk in the [isolation unit].” 889 F.Supp. at 1267.
In Jones El v. Berge, 164 F.Supp.2d 1096, 1125 (W.D.Wis. 2001), the district court described the extreme conditions at the Supermax Correctional Institution in Wisconsin, which constituted “almost complete isolation and sensory deprivation.” Id. at 1117. The inmates spend “all but four hours a week” confined to a cell; they experience “almost total idleness”; “[t]he cells are illuminated 24 hours a day”; and inmates are not allowed to possess “clocks, radios, watches, cassette players or televisions.” Id. at 1098. Finding that “[t]he conditions at Supermax are so severe and restrictive that they exacerbate the symptoms that mentally ill inmates exhibit,” the Court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered mentally ill inmates removed from the prison. Id. at 1116.
In Ruiz v. Johnson, 37 F. Supp.2d 855 (S.D.Tex. 1999), the district court described in vivid detail the conditions of solitary confinement in Texas prisons, and concluded that the evidence showed that “an incarceration that inflicts daily, permanently damaging, physical injury and pain is unconstitutional. Such a practice would be designated as torture.” 37 F.Supp.2d 855, 914 (S.D.Tex. 1999). See also Hilao v. Marcos, 103 F.3d 789, 795 (9th Cir. 1996) (in alien tort claim by victim of Ferdinand Marcos, finding that “it seems clear that all of the abuses … including the eight years during which he was held in solitary or near solitary confinement – constituted a single course of conduct of torture”).
The district court decisions in Madrid, Jones El and Ruiz represent rare examples of judicial scrutiny of the reality of supermax confinement. In general, the courts have been unreceptive to supermax cases and have found constitutional cases involving indefinite 23-hour confinement. See, e.g., Ajaj v. United States, 293 Fed.Appx.575, 582-84 (10th Cir. 2008) (conditions imposing “lockdown 23 hours per day in extreme isolation,” “indefinite confinement” and “limited ability to exercise outdoors” did not violate Eighth Amendment); Matthews v. Wiley, 744 F.Supp.2d 1159, 1175 (D.Colo. 2010) (prisoner’s allegation of “long-term and indefinite solitary confinement” was “too vague and conclusory;” granting motion to dismiss).
In Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006), the issue was whether prison administrators could constitutionally deprive supermax prisoners of all reading material. Inmates in a Pennsylvania prison were “confined to cells for 23 hours a day, [with] limited access to the commissary or outside visitors . . . may not watch television or listen to the radio . . . [and] no access to newspapers, magazines or personal photographs.” 548 U.S. at 526. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s summary judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, and in a 5-3 vote, found that the prison authorities has justified the policies and that the “incorrigibility of the inmates” necessitated the harsh conditions. 584 U.S. at 534.

Supermax confinement as practiced in the United States violates well-established international law (31).
Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, and considered part of customary international law, states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” In addition, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man states that prisoners have “the right to humane treatment” (Art. XXV) and the right “to be free from cruel, infamous, or unusual treatment.” Article 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights repeats the prohibition of “torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment.” In 1955, the United Nations adopted the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which recognizes that solitary confinement should be restricted to extraordinary circumstances.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by the US in 1992, in Article 7, prohibits “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” and Article 10 provides that “all persons deprived of their liberties shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
The Convention Against Torture (CAT), ratified by the US in 1990, defines torture as: "An act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as . . . punishing him for an act he or a third person committed or is suspected of having committed or intimidating or coercing him or a third person . . . when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."
In its May 2000 report, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern about “[t]he excessively harsh regime of the ‘supermaximum’ prisons” in the United States.” And in 2008, the UN Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council submitted a report to the UN General Assembly finding that:
[begin excerpt]
In general comment No. 20 (1992), the Human Rights Committee stated that the use of prolonged solitary confinement may amount to a breach of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (para. 6). The Committee against Torture has recognized the harmful physical and mental effects of prolonged solitary confinement and has expressed concern about its use, including as a preventive measure during pre-trial detention, as well as a disciplinary measure.
Except in exceptional circumstances, such as when the safety of persons or property is involved, the Committee has recommended that the use of solitary confinement be abolished, particularly during pre-trial detention, or at least that it should be strictly and specifically regulated by law (maximum duration, etc.) and exercised under judicial supervision. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended that solitary confinement should not be used against children. Principle 7 of the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners states, “Efforts addressed to the abolition of solitary confinement as a punishment, or to the restriction of its use, should be undertaken and encouraged.”
The weight of accumulated evidence to date points to the serious and adverse health effects of the use of solitary confinement: from insomnia and confusion to hallucinations and mental illness. The key adverse factor of solitary confinement is that socially and psychologically meaningful contact is reduced to the absolute minimum, to a point that is insufficient for most detainees to remain mentally well functioning. Moreover, the effects of solitary confinement on pre-trial detainees may be worse than for other detainees in isolation, given the perceived uncertainty of the length of detention and the potential for its use to extract information or confessions. Pre-trial detainees in solitary confinement have an increased rate of suicide and self-mutilation within the first two weeks of solitary confinement.
In the opinion of the Special Rapporteur, the use of solitary confinement should be kept to a minimum, used in very exceptional cases, for as short a time as possible, and only as a last resort. Regardless of the specific circumstances of its use, effort is required to raise the level of social contacts for prisoners: prisoner-prison staff contact, allowing access to social activities with other prisoners, allowing more visits and providing access to mental health services. [end excerpt] - from "Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", U.N. Doc. A/63/175 (28 July 2008).
The ICCPR and the CAT have had little impact on prisoner litigation in the United States due to reservations adopted by the US upon ratification of these treaties. These reservations bind the US to ICCPR Article 7 and to CAT Article 16 only to the extent such practices are also prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. The result is that in the litigated cases, international law has not been an independent factor for U.S. courts.
This too needs to change. The U.S. is bound by customary international law, including the prohibitions on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of inmates, without reference to any reservations in its ratification of the ICCPR or the CAT. If courts took cognizance of international law and practice, they would see that the scale with which supermax confinement is used in the United States is unmatched and that the practice raises profoundly troubling questions. No other country uses supermax confinement as broadly and systematically as does the United States (32).
In Europe, solitary confinement has rarely been used since a 1982 decision of the European Commission found that “[c]omplete sensory isolation coupled with total social isolation, can destroy the personality and constitutes a form of treatment which cannot be justified by the requirements of security or any other reason.” Krocher v. Switzerland, 34 Eur. Comm’n H.R. Dec. & Rep. 24, 53, P 62 (1982). European rules also require that solitary confinement only be used if a medical officer certifies in writing that the prisoner is sufficiently fit, and that the medical officer must observe the prisoner daily for any changes (33).
The Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture also stated in 1992 that “solitary confinement can, in certain circumstances, amount to inhuman and degrading treatment; in any event, all forms of solitary confinement should be as short as possible” (34).
Finally, conditions in US prisons, including supermax confinement, have provided grounds for criminal defendants to resist extradition to the United States. The European Court of Human Rights, in applying the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, has established that extradition from Europe to US prisons may violate European law. In the 1989 Soering case, for example, the European Court refused extradition to the United States based on the extreme psychological effects of confinement on death row. 161 Eur. Ct. H.R. (ser. A) at 44 (1989).
The European Court is also considering whether supermax conditions in US prisons violate Article 3 of the European Convention, which prohibits the extradition to a state where the prisoner is at risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. Babar Ahmad, a British citizen, and three others, were indicted in the US on terrorism charges. The Court blocked the extraditions and as of July 2011 was considering whether the defendants’ post-trial confinement to the federal supermax prison amounts to a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention.

Supermax confinement has become so embedded in the culture of prison administration that it will take a significant effort to reverse this abhorrent practice. In recent years, there has been some indications that the expansion of solitary confinement has slowed. New York has passed legislation limiting solitary confinement for mentally ill persons, and the legislatures of Maine (which has begun limiting the practice of segregation) and Colorado have introduced bills designed to curb the practice (35). In addition, the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice Treatment of Prisoners, adopted in February 2010, recommend that “[c]onditions of extreme isolation” be prohibited and that no prisoner with serious mental illness be placed in long-term segregated housing.
 We therefore make the following recommendations (36):
  1. The provision in the PLRA providing that inmate plaintiffs may not recover damages “without a prior showing of physical injury” should be repealed;
  2. Prisoners with serious mental illness should never be subjected to supermax confinement;
  3. Conditions of extreme isolation and restriction should be imposed only when an extremely serious threat to prison safety has been established, and even in such circumstances supermax confinement should be for the shortest time possible and inmates should be afforded due process, and an opportunity to contest the confinement and appeal;
  4. Any form of segregated housing should provide meaningful forms of mental, physical and social stimulation; and
  5. A national task force should be established to promptly report on the numbers of inmates being held in supermax confinement in state and federal prisons and their conditions of confinement, and to propose further legislative and administrative reforms.

Respectfully submitted, [signed]
Stephen L. Kass (Chair); E. Michelle Andrews; Elizabeth Barad; Elizabeth C. Black;  Rachel Bien;  Christina L. Brandt-Young;  James E. Brumm; Lauro M. Bueno; Elizabeth R. Crotty; Brett Dakin; Lisa Davis; Anthony DiCaprio; Beatrice S. Frank; Katherine Gallagher; Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum; Barbara S. Gillers; Jennifer L. Gorskie; Maija Hall (Student Member); Julie Hassman; Nichole Hines; Katherine Hughes;   Akbar Hussain; Benjamin G. Joseloff; Joanne Kalas; Rhoda H. Karpatkin; Rebecca Landy; Kristen K. Leibensperger; Julie A. McCane; Jean M. McCarroll; Sam Scott Miller; Nishi Rajan; Katherine Scully;  Susan J. Schneider; David P. Stoelting*; Glynn K. Torres-Spelliscy; Jennifer Trahan; Nadia F. Zaidi; Michael Plumb (Secretary); Adam Dubin (Student Member); Maija Hall (Student Member)


(1) The term “supermax” is used to describe “the new, specialized segregation facilities.” Human Rights Watch, Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness 146 (2003). In supermax, “[p]risoners typically spend their waking and sleeping hours locked alone in small, sometimes windowless cells, some of which are sealed with solid steel doors. They are fed in their cells, their food passed to them on trays through a slot in the door. Between two and five times a week, they are let out of their cells for showers and solitary exercise in a small enclosed space. Most have little or no access to education, recreational, or vocational activities or other sources of mental stimulation.”

(2) Two Supreme Court justices, in describing a supermax prison that denied inmates any reading material, described supermax as “perilously close to a state-sponsored effort at mind control.” Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 552 (2006) (Stevens, J., and Ginsburg, J., dissenting) (dissenting from a ruling in which the Court held that inmates can be deprived of reading material while in supermax confinement without running afoul of the First Amendment).

(3) See, e.g., Jules Lobel, Prolonged Solitary Confinement and the Constitution, 11 U. Pa. J. Const. Law 115, 130-31 (2008) (“Supermaximum security prisons that place inmates in solitary confinement for long periods of time without providing meaningful review of their situations . . . violate international human rights law according to the jurisprudence of the European Court, the Inter-American Court and Commission, and the U.N. Human Rights Committee and Committee Against Torture.”).

(4) John McCain, Faith of My Fathers 206 (Random House, 1999).

(5) See, e.g., Jeffrey L. Metzner and Jamie Fellner, Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons: A Challenge for Medical Ethics, J. Am. Acad. Psychiatry Law: 104-08 (2010) (“The adverse effects of solitary confinement are especially significant for persons with serious mental illness”).

(6) Stuart Grassian and Terry Kupers, The Colorado Study vs. the Reality of Supermax Confinement, Correctional Mental Health Report, Vol. 13, No. 1 (May/June 2011), at 1, 9. But see Jeffrey L. Metzner and Maureen L. O’Keefe, Psychological Effects of Administrative Segregation: The Colorado Study, Correctional Mental Health Report, Vol. 13, No. 1 (May/June 2011), at 1-2, 12-14 (one-year study at Colorado State Penitentiary of psychological effects of administrative segregation concluding that supermax confinement may not cause deterioration of mental health).

(7) Peter Yost’s powerful 2010 documentary Solitary Confinement, which estimates that 80,000 persons are held in solitary confinement in the United States, provides a  harrowing portrayal of inmates subjected to long-term solitary confinement at Colorado State Penitentiary. In addition, Internet sites such as [www.solitarywatch.com] and [www.supermaxed.com] provide coverage.

(8) Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F. Supp. 1146, 1129 (N.D. Cal. 1995).

(9) See Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 229 (2005) (“Prolonged confinement in Supermax may be the State’s only option for the control of some inmates”).

(10) In July 2011, hundreds of prisoners held in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison in California went on a hunger strike to protest conditions, including “prolonged solitary confinement in small windowless concrete boxes with little to no human interaction and other severe physical deprivations.” Press Release, ACLU, ACLU of California Statement on California Prison Hunger Strike(July 19, 2011), available at [http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/aclu-california-statement-california-prison-hunger-strike].

(11) It is far from clear that that supermax confinement reduces incidents of violence. See Atul Gawande, Hellhole, The New Yorker, 36, 41 (Mar. 30, 2009) (discussing 2003 study finding that after opening of supermax prisons in Arizona, Illinois and Minnesota “levels of inmate-on-inmate violence were unchanged”).

(12) Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981).

(13) Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976).

(14) Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910, 1928 (2011).

(15) Craig Haney and Mona Lynch, Regulating Prisons of the Future: A Psychological Analysis of Supermax and Solitary Confinement, 23 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 477, 483 (1997).

(16) Lobel, supra note 2, at 118 (quoting Charles Dickens, American Notes 146 (Fromm Int’l 1985) (1842)).

(17) 134 U.S. 160, 167 (1890).

(18) Id. at 168.

(19) Id.

(20) See Human Rights Watch, supra, note 1, at 145 (2003) (“In the last two decades, … corrections departments have increasingly chosen to segregate or isolate disruptive, rule-breaking or otherwise dangerous prisoners for prolonged periods. Many of them have been placed in special super-maximum security facilities; others are confined in segregation unites within regular prisons.”).

(21) These statistics are taken from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics web site, www.usdoj.gov.

(22) Josiah D. Rich, Sarah E. Wakeman and Samuel L. Dickman, Medicine and the Epidemic of Incarceration in the United States, N. Engl. J. Med. 364: 22 (June 2, 2011).

(23) See Human Rights Watch, Out of Sight: Super-Maximum Security Confinement in the United States, A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 12, no. 1(G), Feb. 2000 (“Many correction authorities have turned to prolonged supermax confinement in an effort to increase their control over prisoners.”); Haney & Lynch, supra note 15, at 480 (“In part in response to increasing pressures in badly overcrowded prison systems and then absence of resources with which to attempt alternative approached, correctional administrators are turning to aggressive policies of punitive segregation in hopes of enhancing their control over prisoners.”).

(24) Comm’n on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons, Vera Institute of Justice, Confronting Confinement 52-53 (2006).

(25) See flyer announcing congressional briefing sponsored by Congressmen John Conyers, Robert Scott and Cedric Richmond entitled The Abuses of Solitary Confinement in the U.S. Criminal Justice System, 3:00 p.m., Apr. 6, 2011 (“Each day tens of thousands of prisoners in the U.S. are held in solitary confinement.”).

(26) Gawande, supra, note 9, at 42 (“By the end of the nineteen-nineties, some sixty supermax institutions had opened across the country. And new solitary confinement units were established within nearly all of our ordinary maximum-security prisons.”).

(27) Id.

(28) Jules Lobel, Prolonged Solitary Confinement and the Constitution, 11 J. Const. Law 115, 115 Dec. 2008) (citing Daniel Mears and Jamie Watson, Towards a Fair and Balanced Assessment of Supermax Prisons, 23 Just. Q. 232, 232-33 (2006)).

(29) David Fathi, Turning the Corner on Solitary Confinement?, Feb. 24, 2011, at [www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights].

(30) Lockdown New York: Disciplinary Confinement in New York State Prisons, A Report of the Correctional Association of New York, at 2 (Oct. 2003).

(31) The New York City Bar Association has previously concluded that “prolonged solitary confinement and incommunicado detention” is a violation of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See The Committee on International Human Rights and The Committee on Military Affairs and Justice, Human Rights Standards Applicable to the United States’ Interrogation of Detainees, 59 The Record 183, 220 (2004). See also Human Rights Watch, supra note 1 at 145 n.493 (“Based on visits to a dozen such facilities and extensive other research, Human Rights Watch has criticized prolonged supermax confinement as . . . in violation of international human rights standards.”). 

(32) Rachel Kamel and Bonnie Kerness, The Prison Inside the Prison: Control Units, Supermax Prisons, and Devices of Torture (American Friends Service Committee 2003) (“While other countries do operate isolation units, their use is far more restricted.”).

(33) Elizabeth Vasiliades, Solitary Confinement and International Human Rights: Why the U.S. Prison System Fails, 21 Am. U. Int’l L. rev. 71, 93-94 (2005).

(34) Id. at 94.

(35) See ACLU Press Release, Bill Introduced in Colorado Legislature Aims to Curb Use of Solitary Confinement in Prisons, Feb. 22, 2011, available at [www.aclu.org].

(36) These recommendations are based on recommendations made by Human Rights Watch, supra note 15, and the ABA Standards adopted in 2010.

Unlimited War for Unlimited Personal Profits

War is a business. The more wars are organized, the more profits are taken for the benefit of the investors on whose behalf the wars are fought...

2012-12-11 "How U.S. Taxpayers Are Paying the Pentagon to Occupy the Planet: Picking Up a $170 Billion Tab" by David Vine from "TomDispatch"
David Vine is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the more than 1,000 U.S. military bases located outside the United States.
Protest in Vicenza, Italy against the US Dal Molin base (Photo: obbino via flickr)

“Are you monitoring the construction?” asked the middle-aged man on a bike accompanied by his dog.
“Ah, sì,” I replied in my barely passable Italian.
“Bene,” he answered. Good.
In front of us, a backhoe’s guttural engine whined into action and empty dump trucks rattled along a dirt track. The shouts of men vied for attention with the metallic whirring of drills and saws ringing in the distance. Nineteen immense cranes spread across the landscape, with the foothills of Italy’s Southern Alps in the background. More than 100 pieces of earthmoving equipment, 250 workers, and grids of scaffolding wrapped around what soon would be 34 new buildings.
We were standing in front of a massive 145-acre construction site for a “little America” rising in Vicenza, an architecturally renowned Italian city and UNESCO world heritage site near Venice. This was Dal Molin, the new military base the U.S. Army has been readying for the relocation of as many as 2,000 soldiers from Germany in 2013.
Since 1955, Vicenza has also been home to another major U.S. base, Camp Ederle. They’re among the more than 1,000 bases the United States uses to ring the globe (with about 4,000 more in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.). This complex of military installations, unprecedented in history, has been a major, if little noticed, aspect of U.S. power since World War II.
During the Cold War, such bases became the foundation for a “forward strategy” meant to surround the Soviet Union and push U.S. military power as close to its borders as possible. These days, despite the absence of a superpower rival, the Pentagon has been intent on dotting the globe with scores of relatively small “lily pad” bases, while continuing to build and maintain some large bases like Dal Molin.
Americans rarely think about these bases, let alone how much of their tax money -- and debt -- is going to build and maintain them. For Dal Molin and related construction nearby, including a brigade headquarters, two sets of barracks, a natural-gas-powered energy plant, a hospital, two schools, a fitness center, dining facilities, and a mini-mall, taxpayers are likely to shell out at least half a billion dollars. (All the while, a majority of locals passionately and vocally oppose the new base.)
How much does the United States spend each year occupying the planet with its bases and troops? How much does it spend on its global presence?  Forced by Congress to account for its spending overseas, the Pentagon has put that figure at $22.1 billion a year. It turns out that even a conservative estimate of the true costs of garrisoning the globe comes to an annual total of about $170 billion. In fact, it may be considerably higher. Since the onset of “the Global War on Terror” in 2001, the total cost for our garrisoning policies, for our presence abroad, has probably reached $1.8 trillion to $2.1 trillion.

How Much Do We Spend?
By law, the Pentagon must produce an annual “Overseas Cost Summary” (OCS) putting a price on the military’s activities abroad, from bases to embassies and beyond. This means calculating all the costs of military construction, regular facility repairs, and maintenance, plus the costs of maintaining one million U.S. military and Defense Department personnel and their families abroad -- the pay checks, housing, schools, vehicles, equipment, and the transportation of personnel and materials overseas and back, and far, far more.
The latest OCS, for the 2012 fiscal year ending September 30th, documented $22.1 billion in spending, although, at Congress’s direction, this doesn’t include any of the more than $118 billion spent that year on the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe.
While $22.1 billion is a considerable sum, representing about as much as the budgets for the Departments of Justice and Agriculture and about half the State Department’s 2012 budget, it contrasts sharply with economist Anita Dancs’s estimate of $250 billion. She included war spending in her total, but even without it, her figure comes to around $140 billion -- still $120 billion more than the Pentagon suggests.
Wanting to figure out the real costs of garrisoning the planet myself, for more than three years, as part of a global investigation of bases abroad, I’ve talked to budget experts, current and former Pentagon officials, and base budget officers. Many politely suggested that this was a fool’s errand given the number of bases involved, the complexity of distinguishing overseas from domestic spending, the secrecy of Pentagon budgets, and the “frequently fictional” nature of Pentagon figures.  (The Department of Defense remains the only federal agency unable to pass a financial audit.)
Ever the fool and armed only with the power of searchable PDFs, I nonetheless plunged into the bizarro world of Pentagon accounting, where ledgers are sometimes still handwritten and $1 billion can be a rounding error. I reviewed thousands of pages of budget documents, government and independent reports, and hundreds of line items for everything from shopping malls to military intelligence to postal subsidies.
Wanting to err on the conservative side, I decided to follow the methodology Congress mandated for the OCS, while also looking for overseas costs the Pentagon or Congress might have ignored. It hardly made sense to exclude, for example, the health-care costs the Department of Defense pays for troops on overseas bases, spending for personnel in Kosovo, or the price tag for supporting the 550 bases we have in Afghanistan.
In the spirit of “monitoring the construction,” let me lead you on an abbreviated account of my quest to come up with the real costs of occupying planet Earth.

Missing Costs -
Although the Overseas Cost Summary initially might seem quite thorough, you’ll soon notice that countries well known to host U.S. bases have gone missing-in-action. In fact, at least 18 countries and foreign territories on the Pentagon’s own list of overseas bases go unnamed.
Particularly surprising is the absence of Kosovo and Bosnia. The military has had large bases and hundreds of troops there for more than a decade, with another Pentagon report showing 2012 costs of $313.8 million. According to that report, the OCS also understates costs for bases in Honduras and Guantánamo Bay by about a third or $85 million.
And then other oddities appear: in places like Australia and Qatar, the Pentagon says it has funds to pay troops but no money for “operations and maintenance” to turn the lights on, feed people, or do regular repairs. Adjusting for these costs adds an estimated $36 million. As a start, I found:
$436 million for missing countries and costs.
That’s not much compared to $22 billion and chump change in the context of the whole Pentagon budget, but it’s just a beginning.
At Congress’s direction, the Pentagon also omits the costs of bases in the oft-forgotten U.S. territories -- Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is strange because the Pentagon considers them “overseas.” More important, as economist Dancs says, “The United States retains territories... primarily for the purposes of the military and projecting military power.” Plus, they are, well, literally overseas.
Conservatively, this adds $3 billion in total military spending to the OCS.
However, there are more quasi-U.S. territories in the form of truly forgotten Pacific Ocean island nations in “compacts of free association” with the United States -- the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. Ever since it controlled these islands as “strategic trust territories” after World War II, the U.S. has enjoyed the right to establish military facilities on them, including the nuclear test site on the Bikini Atoll and the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site elsewhere in the Marshalls.
This comes in exchange for yearly aid payments from the Office of Insular Affairs, adding another $571 million and yielding total costs of:
$3.6 billion for territories and Pacific island nations.
Speaking of the oceans, at Congress’s instruction, the Pentagon excludes the cost of maintaining naval vessels overseas. But Navy and Marine Corps vessels are essentially floating (and submersible) bases used to maintain a powerful military presence on (and under) the seas.  A very conservative estimate for these costs adds another $3.8 billion.
Then there are the costs of Navy prepositioned ships at anchor around the world.  Think of them as warehouse-bases at sea, stocked with weaponry, war materiel, and other supplies. And don’t forget Army prepositioned stocks. Together, they come to an estimated $604 million a year. In addition, the Pentagon appears to omit some $861 million for overseas “sealift” and “airlift” and “other mobilization” expenses. All told, the bill grows by:
$5.3 billion for Navy vessels and personnel plus seaborne and airborne assets.
Also strangely missing from the Cost Summary is that little matter of health-care costs. Overseas costs for the Defense Health Program and other benefits for personnel abroad add an estimated $11.7 billion yearly. And then there’s $538 million in military and family housing construction that the Pentagon also appears to overlook in its tally.
So too, we can’t forget about shopping on base, because we the taxpayers are subsidizing those iconic Walmart-like PX (Post Exchange) shopping malls on bases worldwide. Although the military is fond of saying that the PX system pays for itself because it helps fund on-base recreation programs, Pentagon leaders neglect to mention that the PXs get free buildings and land, free utilities, and free transportation of goods to overseas locations. They also operate tax-free.
While there’s no estimate for the value of the buildings, land, and utilities that taxpayers provide, the exchanges reported $267 million in various subsidies for 2011. (Foregone federal taxes might add $30 million or more to that figure.) Add in as well postal subsidies of at least $71 million and you have:
$12.6 billion for health care, military and family housing, shopping and postal subsidies.
Another Pentagon exclusion is rent paid to other countries for the land we garrison. Although a few countries like Japan, Kuwait, and South Korea actually pay the United States to subsidize our garrisons -- to the tune of $1.1 billion in 2012 -- far more common, according to base expert Kent Calder, “are the cases where the United States pays nations to host bases.”
Given the secretive nature of basing agreements and the complex economic and political trade-offs involved in base negotiations, precise figures are impossible to find. However, Pentagon-funded research indicates that 18% of total foreign military and economic aid goes toward buying base access. That swells our invoice by around $6.3 billion. Payments to NATO of $1.7 billion “for the acquisition and construction of military facilities and installations” and other purposes, brings us to:
$6.9 billion in net “rent” payments and NATO contributions.
Although the OCS must report the costs of all military operations abroad, the Pentagon omits $550 million for counternarcotics operations and $108 million for humanitarian and civic aid. Both have, as a budget document explains about humanitarian aid, helped “maintain a robust overseas presence,” while the military “obtains access to regions important to U.S. interests.” The Pentagon also spent $24 million on environmental projects abroad to monitor and reduce on-base pollution, dispose of hazardous and other waste, and for “initiatives…in support of global basing/operations.” So the bill now grows by:
$682 million for counternarcotics, humanitarian, and environmental programs.
The Pentagon tally of the price of occupying the planet also ignores the costs of secret bases and classified programs overseas. Out of a total Pentagon classified budget of $51 billion for 2012, I conservatively use only the estimated overseas portion of operations and maintenance spending, which adds $2.4 billion. Then there’s the $15.7 billion Military Intelligence Program. Given that U.S. law generally bars the military from engaging in domestic spying, I estimate that half this spending, $7.9 billion, took place overseas.
Next, we have to add in the CIA’s paramilitary budget, funding activities including secret bases in places like Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere in the Middle East, and its drone assassination program, which has grown precipitously since the onset of the war on terror. With thousands dead (including hundreds of civilians), how can we not consider these military costs? In an email, John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, told me that “possibly a third” of the CIA’s estimated budget of $10 billion may now go to paramilitary costs, yielding:
$13.6 billion for classified programs, military intelligence, and CIA paramilitary activities.
Last but certainly not least comes the real biggie: the costs of the 550 bases the U.S. built in Afghanistan, as well as the last three months of life for our bases in Iraq, which once numbered 505 before the U.S. pullout from that country (that is, the first three months of fiscal year 2012). While the Pentagon and Congress exclude these costs, that’s like calculating the New York Yankees’ payroll while excluding salaries for each year’s huge free agent signings.
Conservatively following the OCS methodology used for other countries, but including costs for health care, military pay in the base budget, rent, and “other programs,” we add an estimated:
$104.9 billion for bases and military presence in Afghanistan and other war zones.
Having started with the OCS figure of $22.1 billion, the grand total now has reached:
$168 billion ($169,963,153,283 to be exact).
That’s nearly an extra $150 billion. Even if you exclude war costs -- and I think the Yankees show why that’s a bad idea -- the total still reaches $65.1 billion, or nearly three times the Pentagon’s calculation.
But don’t for a second think that that’s the end of our garrisoning costs. In addition to spending likely hidden in the nooks and crannies of its budget, there are other irregularities in the Pentagon’s accounting. Costs for 16 countries hosting U.S. bases but left out of the OCS entirely, including Colombia, El Salvador, and Norway, may total more than $350 million. The costs of the military presence in Colombia alone could reach into the tens of millions in the context of more than $8.5 billion in Plan Colombia funding since 2000. The Pentagon also reports costs of less than $5 million each for Yemen, Israel, Uganda, and the Seychelles Islands, which seems unlikely and could add millions more.
When it comes to the general U.S. presence abroad, other costs are too difficult to estimate reliably, including the price of Pentagon offices in the United States, embassies, and other government agencies that support bases and troops overseas. So, too, U.S. training facilities, depots, hospitals, and even cemeteries allow overseas bases to function. Other spending includes currency-exchange costs, attorneys’ fees and damages won in lawsuits against military personnel abroad, short-term “temporary duty assignments,” U.S.-based troops participating in exercises overseas, and perhaps even some of NASA’s military functions, space-based weapons, a percentage of recruiting costs required to staff bases abroad, interest paid on the debt attributable to the past costs of overseas bases, and Veterans Administration costs and other retirement spending for military personnel who served abroad.
Beyond my conservative estimate, the true bill for garrisoning the planet might be closer to $200 billion a year.

“Spillover Costs” -
Those, by the way, are just the costs in the U.S. government’s budget. The total economic costs to the U.S. economy are higher still. Consider where the taxpayer-funded salaries of the troops at those bases go when they eat or drink at a local restaurant or bar, shop for clothing, rent a local home, or pay local sales taxes in Germany, Italy, or Japan. These are what economists call “spillover” or “multiplier effects.” When I visited Okinawa in 2010, for example, Marine Corps representatives bragged about how their presence contributes $1.9 billion annually to the local economy through base contracts, jobs, local purchases, and other spending. Although the figures may be overstated, it’s no wonder members of Congress like Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have called for a new “Build in America” policy to protect “the fiscal health of our nation.”
And the costs are still broader when one considers the trade-offs, or opportunity costs, involved. Military spending creates fewer jobs per million dollars expended than the same million invested in education, health care, or energy efficiency -- barely half as many as investing in schools. Even worse, while military spending clearly provides direct benefits to the Lockheed Martins and KBRs of the military-industrial complex, these investments don’t, as economist James Heintz says, boost the “long-run productivity of the rest of the private sector” the way infrastructure investments do.
To adapt a famous line from President Dwight Eisenhower: every base that is built signifies in the final sense a theft. Indeed, think about what Dal Molin’s half a billion dollars in infrastructure could have done if put to civilian uses. Again echoing Ike, the cost of one modern base is this: 260,000 low-income children getting health care for one year or 65,000 going to a year of Head Start or 65,000 veterans receiving VA care for a year.

A Different Kind of “Spillover” -
Bases also create a different “spillover” in the financial and non-financial costs host countries bear. In 2004, for example, on top of direct “burden sharing” payments, host countries made in-kind contributions of $4.3 billion to support U.S. bases. In addition to agreeing to spend billions of dollars to move thousands of U.S. Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam, the Japanese government has paid nearly $1 billion to soundproof civilian homes near U.S. air bases on Okinawa and millions in damages for successful noise pollution lawsuits. Similarly, as base expert Mark Gillem reports, between 1992 and 2003, the Korean and U.S. governments paid $27.3 million in damages because of crimes committed by U.S. troops stationed in Korea. In a single three-year period, U.S. personnel “committed 1,246 criminal acts, from misdemeanors to felonies.”
As these crimes indicate, costs for local communities extend far beyond the economic. Okinawans have recently been outraged by what appears to be another in a long series of rapes committed by U.S. troops. Which is just one example of how, from Japan to Italy, there are what Anita Dancs calls the “costs of rising hostility” over bases. Environmental damage pushes the financial and non-financial toll even higher. The creation of a base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean sent all of the local Chagossian people into exile.
So, too, U.S. troops and their families bear some of those nonfinancial costs due to frequent moves and separation during unaccompanied tours abroad, along with attendant high rates of divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual assault, and suicide.
“No one, no one likes it,” a stubbly-faced old man told me as I was leaving the construction site.  He remembered the Americans arriving in 1955 and now lives within sight of the Dal Molin base. “If it were for the good of the people, okay, but it’s not for the good of the people.”
“Who pays? Who pays?” he asked. “Noi,” he said. We do.
Indeed, from that $170 billion to the costs we can’t quantify, we all do.

2012-09-25 "The US will Continue Its Wars as Long as the Dollar Remains a Reserve Currency"
by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts from "Global Research" [http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-us-will-continue-its-wars-as-long-as-the-dollar-remains-a-reserve-currency]:
Pravda.Ru interviewed Paul Craig Roberts, an American economist, who served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration and became a co-founder of Reaganomics – the economic policies promoted by the U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s. We asked Mr. Roberts to share his views about the current state of affairs inside and outside the United States.

Pravda.Ru: Mr. Roberts, you are known in Russia as the creator of Reaganomics, which helped the country overcome stagflation. What were the key aspects of that policy and how would you estimate its results today? Do you think your faith in free market has shattered?
Paul Craig Roberts: Free market means the freedom of price to adjust to supply and demand. It does not mean the absence of regulation of human behavior.
Reaganomics was a political word for supply-side economics, a new development in economic theory. In the post World War 2 western world, governments used Keynesian demand management economic policy to control inflation and to boost employment. John Maynard Keynes was the British economist who explained the Great Depression in the West as a consequence of insufficient aggregate demand to maintain full employment and stable prices.
Keynesian demand management relied on government budget deficits and easy monetary policy (money creation) to stimulate demand for goods and services. To control inflation from too much demand for goods and services, high tax rates were used to reduce disposable income.
The problem that developed is that the high tax rates on income made leisure inexpensive in terms of lost current earnings from not working, and made current consumption inexpensive in terms of lost future income from not saving and investing. In other words, high tax rates on income made leisure and current consumption cheap in terms of foregone present and future income. Thus, high tax rates on income depressed the supply of labor and capital.
Using the UK’s 98% tax rate on investment income (pre-Thatcher), the Nobel economist Milton Friedman illustrated the problem with this example. You are an Englishman with $100,000. Shall you invest it for future income, or shall you purchase a Rolls Royce and enjoy life? The true price of the Rolls Royce (or Bentley, or Ferrari or Maserati) is not the purchase price. The price of the exotic car is the foregone future income from not investing the $100,000.
Suppose you could earn 10% on the $100,000. That would be $10,000 per year as the cost of purchasing the luxury car. But after tax (98%) the car would only cost $200 per year, a very cheap price.
The same example works for labor and salary income. Because of the high marginal tax rates, many professionals such as medical doctors closed their practices on Fridays and went to the golf course.
By changing the policy mix, that is by tightening monetary policy and reducing marginal tax rates (the tax rate on increases in income), the supply-side economic policy of the Reagan administration caused aggregate supply to increase. Thus output expanded relative to demand, and inflation declined.
This supply-side policy was instrumental as Reagan’s first step toward ending the cold war with the Soviet Union. As long as the US economy was afflicted with stagflation–the simultaneous rise in both inflation and unemployment, the Soviet government saw capitalism failing along with communism. But when Reagan corrected the economic problem, it made the Soviet government unsure that it could withstand an arms race.
Reagan’s next step was to bring the Soviet government to the negotiating table to end the cold war. The cold war was an economic drain on both societies and always had the risk of a miscalculation that would result in nuclear war, wiping out life on earth. Gorbachev, an intelligent person aware of the risk, came to agreement with Reagan.
This was a great accomplishment for the Americans and for the Russians. Friendship and cooperation was now possible.
 But it was not to last. Reagan’s successors took advantage of the good will between the countries that Reagan and Gorbachev had created to achieve American hegemony over the world.

Q: During the 80s, relying on the revived economic power of the United States, Ronald Reagan managed to convince the Soviet government to end the Cold War. All those agreements, as you believe, were destroyed by Reagan’s successors. Russia shares a completely different opinion about Reagan. The Russians think of him as the man, who resumed the arms race, designed the space shield and “cut out the cancer of communism” having won (or maybe bribed) Gorbachev over to his side for cooperation. Maybe one shouldn’t strike him out of the list of the authors of today’s American “idiotism?”
A: Reagan was not a member of the Republican Establishment. He defeated the Establishment’s candidate, George H. W. Bush (father of George W. Bush) for the Republican presidential nomination. By appealing to Democratic as well as Republican voters, Reagan had a great electoral victory. Reagan had two goals: one was to end stagflation, the other was to end the cold war. He was not much interested in anything else. The “arms race” and the “anti-ballistic missile defense–star wars” were never real. They were threats used to bring Gorbachev to negotiate the end of the cold war. Unlike the present Republican Party, Reagan wanted peace, not war.
I know this because when I succeeded in establishing the new economic policy that cured stagflation, President Reagan appointed me to a super-secret presidential committee that had subpoena power over the CIA.
The CIA opposed Reagan’s effort to end the cold war, as did the powerful military-security complex, about which President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people in his last address to the American nation. The end of the cold war threatened the profits of the powerful military industries and the power of the CIA.
The CIA said that the Soviet Union would win an arms race, because the Soviet Union could control investment, unlike the US, and could allocate the entire Gross Domestic Product of the Soviet Empire to the military. Reagan’s secret committee over-ruled the CIA.
 I had been a member of the US-USSR student exchange program to the Soviet Union in 1961 and had observed the situation. My first book (1971) said that the Soviet economy had failed. When decades later I addressed the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1989 and 1990, members of the Economic Institute brought me copies of my book to be autographed. And I had thought that censorship existed in the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union collapsed three years after Reagan left office. It came as a surprise to those of us who had helped Reagan to end the cold war and dispose of the nuclear war threat.
 Myself and many other Reagan supporters opposed the extension of NATO to Russia’s reduced borders. What the world seems to be unaware of is that the Soviet collapse unleashed a new, highly dangerous ideology in the US known as neoconservatism.

Q: You wrote that the insane and criminal government in Washington, no matter Democratic of Republicans, no matter the outcome of the next elections, is the biggest threat to life on Earth ever. How would you describe this threat, what is it made of and who represents it in the US?
A: The threat is the neoconservative ideology, unleashed by the Soviet collapse. It is a form of Marxism in which American “democratic capitalism” instead of the proletariat has won history’s verdict–”the end of history.” Americans are the “indispensable people,” and the US is the “indispensable nation” with the right and responsibility to establish its hegemony over the world. Adolf Hitler called the same thing “Aryan Superiority.” Now Washington asserts the superiority. The neoconservative ideology threatens the world with nuclear war.

Q: What would you say about the Russian law, according to which political parties funded from abroad should be registered as foreign agents?
A: The US has laws that require foreign interests to register as foreign agents. This law does not always apply to all Israeli lobby groups, such as AIPAC.
There are no political parties in the US that are funded by foreign interests. No such thing would be permitted. It would be regarded as high treason. What is surprising is that the Russian government permitted for 20 years its political opposition to be funded by Washington and still permits that today as long as the opposition registers as an American agent. The ability of Washington to fund the Russian government’s political opposition and also protest groups, perhaps including Pussy Riot, allows Washington free access to destabilize Russia.

Q: What role do so-called non-governmental organizations play in the US? The National Endowment for Democracy, for example?
A: NGOs play no role inside the US. NGOs are Washington’s means of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, such as funding and organizing “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine. The National Endowment for Democracy is a principle funder of political opposition and protest groups in countries with governments to which Washington is opposed. Despite its original purpose, the National Endowment for Democracy has been converted into an agent for US hegemony.

Q: You wrote a lot about the fate of Pussy Riot. As you said, “they were brutally deceived and used by the Washington-financed NGOs that have infiltrated Russia.” What is the goal of such stunts?
A: It might be the case that Pussy Riot’s assaults on Russian probity are independent protests. On the other hand, the offending stunts could be provoked and funded by NGOs that are funded from Washington. Regardless, it is the result that is important. The result is that the controversy over Pussy Riot has shifted criticism from Washington’s destruction of Syria to Putin, “the suppressor of free speech.” It is folly for Russians to ally with Washington’s propaganda against their own government. If this folly continues, Russia will end up as another American puppet state.

Q: If an act like that of Pussy Riot took place in America, in a location of national significance, how would the general public and the government react? What do common people say about the Pussy Riot scandal in Russia?
A: Ordinary Americans know nothing about Pussy Riot. Despite the propaganda from Washington, most Americans have never heard of the incident. The importance of Washington’s propaganda about Pussy Riot is to send the signal to Washington’s European puppet states that Russia is to be demonized for opposing Washington’s destruction of Syria and Iran. It was the Russian and Chinese governments that blocked Washington’s UN resolution that would have allowed an opening for NATO to bomb Syria as it did Libya. Instead of being praised for its concern with life, human rights, and international law, Russia has been damned.
The consequence in the US of an act like those performed by Pussy Riot would vary depending on state and local laws. Also, depending on where the act takes place–a Jewish synagog for instance–the US Department of Justice could declare the act a hate crime or a form of discrimination against a “preferred minority” and bring a federal case.

Q: You wrote that the US government was full of determination to have the war on three fronts: Syria, Lebanon and Iran – in the Middle East, China – in the Far East and Russia – in Europe. Does the country have financial possibilities for that?
A: The US is bankrupt. However, the US dollar remains the world reserve currency. This means that the US can print money to pay its bills. As long as the world accepts the dollar as world reserve currency, the US will be able to continue its wars.

Q: Being in the insular situation, the USA experiments on other countries hoping that war will never come to the US territory. The US spends a lot more on defense of its forward-based forces in Europe and in the Middle East than it does on defense of its own borders. Maybe Russia should be more active and put the threat closer to the US borders by deploying a sea-based missile defense system near the shores of a friendly Latin American country?
A: Like President Reagan, I am in favor of peace. I believe that Americans, Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and everyone else should spend their resources in getting along with one another, not in trying to dominate one another. I believe that Washington is forcing Russia and China to spend resources on military preparedness that the countries could better use in economic development and in protecting the environment. It is my belief that Washington’s drive for world hegemony is driving the world toward nuclear war. I have no way of knowing how the Russian and Chinese governments might respond to Washington’s drive for hegemony.

Q: What stops Russia and China from uniting to oppose the USA?
A: This question is outside my knowledge. Perhaps suspicion of one another, like the suspicion between Sunni and Shia that allows the US to dominate the Middle East.

Q: You said that the US is a police state, which was set up in the name of mystification of the “war on terror.” Can you give a clear explanation as to what the American Big Brother is doing?
A: The Bush/Cheney regime rammed through the PATRIOT Act, which assaulted the US Constitution and took away US civil liberties. The Bush regime established that the president did not have to obey either statutory US law, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which requires a court warrant for spying on US citizens. President Bush violated the law, a felony, and was not held accountable.
Bush asserted and established by assertion, the power to negate Constitutional protections, such as habeas corpus, and confined US citizens to indefinite detainment (life in prison) without any evidence or court proceedings. Nothing was done about this violation of constitutional order. President Obama has declared that he has the power to execute US citizens on suspicion alone without evidence or due process of law. These are the most extreme police state measures of modern times.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it has shifted its focus from Muslim terrorism to “domestic extremists,” an undefined term. Recently the Department of Homeland Security has purchased more than one billion rounds of deadly ammunition, such as hollow point bullets, enough to shoot the entire US population several times. There are also reports that detainment camps have been constructed, allegedly for such events as hurricane evacuation. Congress and the media are not asking questions about these developments.

Q: President Barack Obama said that one of the principles to resume peace talks between Israel and Palestine was about the retrieval of 1967 borders. How could the Jewish lobby let him say that?
A: President Obama has been declared by Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and the Israel Lobby to be a lackluster friend of Israel, because Obama has not yet launched a military attack on Iran. Obama, perhaps believing himself to be the president of the world’s only superpower, and not a puppet of the Israeli prime minister, has taken offense at the public bullying to which he has been subjected by the far right-wing Israeli government. Obama’s statement referring to the 1967 borders was Obama’s way of letting the Israeli government know that it was going too far and pushing too hard.

Q: You see the basic problems of the US economy in moving production to China. If you were invited to serve as an adviser to the president, what would be your plan for taking America out of the crisis?
A: I will never again be permitted to serve as an adviser to the president of the US. Since the Clinton presidency, the only permitted advisers are those who lie for the government. I will not do that.
I am unsure that America can be taken out of economic crisis. Much of the most productive part of the US economy has been moved offshore in order to increase corporate profits, the performance-based bonuses for executive compensation and capital gains to equity owners. The US has lost critical supply chains, industrial infrastructure, and the knowledge of skilled workers.
Theoretically, the US could bring its corporations back to America by taxing their profits according to the geographical location in which value is added to their product. If value is added abroad, in China or India, for example, the tax rate would be high. If value was added domestically in the US, the tax rate would be low.
The US could also resort to the protective tariffs that were responsible for its rise as an economic power.
These changes would be difficult to enact as the changes are contrary to the material interests of the one percent.
The US today is ruled by an oligarchy of private interests. The US government is not very independent of the powerful interest groups that fund political campaigns. The US ceased being a democracy during the Clinton administration.

2012-09-24 "US War Agenda: Coke or Goldman Sachs, What’s Your Poison?"
by Colin Todhunter by "Global Research" [http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-war-agenda-coke-or-goldman-sachs-whats-your-poison]:
Who in their right mind would be prepared to fight and die for Shell, Chevron or Coca Cola? Who with half a brain would choose to put their life on the line for Goldman Sachs, Bank of America or General Electric? Any volunteers? I’m guessing there wouldn’t be many.
Then again, I could be wrong. Think of the tens of thousands of NATO troops who over the last decade have been in Afghanistan or Iraq. Drunk on the potent aphrodisiac of nationalism and a military that sells life in the armed forces as resembling some computer game reality, young mainly working class men have lined up in their droves to put their lives on the line for their respective governments.
Enticed by the glamour of armed forces’ adverts that proclaim ‘see the world’ or ‘learn a trade’ in an era of severe economic downturn, when few poorer people have little chance of doing either, ‘serving queen and country’ (or some other nationalistic slogan) seems like a good option.
This form of economic conscription has meant no shortage of young men signing up to fight wars in far away lands. Sold under the outright lie of ‘protecting democracy’, ‘humanitarian intervention’ or another apparent high-minded falsehood, thousands have gone off to kill and die and pledge allegiance to a ‘greater good’.
But it’s not the greater good of humankind, queen, flag or country that is at stake. Forget about blurry eyed nationalism or idealism. These young men are spilling their own blood and the blood of countless others on behalf of corporate interests.
Western ‘liberal democracy’ has nothing to do with empowering people and everything to do with enslaving them and making them blind to the chains that bind them. It is the powerful foundations and think tanks headed or funded by private corporations that drive US policies and its war agenda.
In his Global Research article ‘Tipping the balance of power’ ( 23 Sept), Tony Cartalucci highlights how, through their funding or by direct membership of various foundations, think tanks and government bodies, US domestic and foreign policies are formulated to serve corporate interests. It is the Brookings Institute, International Crisis Group and Council on Foreign Relations, among others, where the real heart of the US government lies. In Britain, Chatham House plays a similar role.
It is not without good reason that former CIA ‘asset’ Susan Linduar claimed that US oil giants Chevron and Occidental Petroleum exerted pressure on Washington to remove Gadhaffi from power because he was supposedly was exerting heavy pressure on US and British oil companies to cough up special fees and kick backs to cover the costs of Libya’s reimbursement to the families of the Pan Am plane that blew up over Lockerbie. On Washington’s nod, tens of thousands of Libyans subsequently paid the price with their lives
John Perkins book ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ details how poorer countries have been neo-colonised by a cabal of US corporations, banks and government agencies. This is achieved via a combination of targeted assassinations, bribery, deceit and financial loans leading to debt dependency. If all of that fails, the troops are then sent in under the banner of ‘humanitarianism’ or protecting ‘national security’. Corporate America has been the leading hand in virtually every US led conflict since 1945, from Guatemala in the 1950s right up to Syria today.
Who but a misinformed and brainwashed public would think for one minute that such corporations and their foundations, institutes and agencies would let ordinary folk have any say in policies that would adversely affect their power or enormous wealth? There is no way they will allow any genuine form of democracy that could disrupt their aims. What is required and achieved is an ignorant and misinformed public that places an X on a ballot form every four years in favour of competing corporate-sponsored politicians. A public that readily lines up to support the corporate war agenda, and a public from which a cannon fodder army of young men is recruited to die on the battlefields of Asia.
And as those young men are delivered to their families inside a wooden box or return home suffering from the long term effects of using weapons that contained depleted uranium, there can only be one thought among decent minded folk – ‘what a waste.’
But young men being carted away in a body bag or suffering from life long illnesses means nothing to the men these wars are fought for. They are just ‘collateral damage’ in pursuit of the ‘greater good’. Not the greater good of lofty idealism. But the corporate brand of ‘greater good’ – greed, resource grabs, ever more profits and ever more power.
The mainstream media glorifies the military at every available opportunity. Obama calls armed forces personnel ‘the real patriots’. In Britain they are ‘our brave lads’. Such rhetoric serves as a smokescreen to hide the true nature of the illegal, imperialist wars NATO continues to engage in.
For many, it seems strange that our ‘brave heroes’, our ‘true patriots’ who were sent out to kill, so often have to rely on charities when back from the battlefield to piece their health and lives back together again. Not so strange really because, behind the rhetoric, the reality is they are regarded by the wealthy beneficiaries of the war agenda as constituting disposable working class fodder who have no idea about what they are really fighting for..
Don’t take my word for it. Henry Kissinger, the criminal responsible for scorching, torching, maiming and killing tens of thousands is reported in the book ‘The Final Days’ (Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein) to have referred to military men as “dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy.”

2013-05-16 "Pentagon 'Rewrites Constitution' Affirming Endless War: Senate hearing on the Authorization for Use of Military Force confirms congressional war powers rendered 'null and void'"  
by Lauren McCauley from "Common Dreams" [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/16-6]:
The United States is truly engaged in an endless war.
In a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Forces Thursday morning entitled "Oversight: The Law of Armed Conflict, the Use of Military Force, and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force" [http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings/event.cfm?eventid=dff260f50b247719c4fa9f1e3daf7232], Pentagon officials argued that the wide-ranging counter-terrorism laws implemented after 9/11 will continue to be the law of the land until "hostilities with al-Qaeda," or any individuals potentially associated with the group, come to an end.
During the hearing, lawmakers questioned the panel on the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and weighed further actions. It was the first Senate hearing on the potential rewriting of the AUMF.
The rule empowers the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
This widespread directive has enabled the Commander in Chief to oversee everything from the rendition, transfer and indefinite detention of "suspects," to the authorization of lethal drone strikes.
Further, Pentagon officials argued Thursday that under the AUMF troops could be sent to Syria, Yemen and the Congo without new congressional authorization.
Testifying before the panel, Michael A. Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, defended the rationale saying that if a terrorist organization outside of al-Qaeda, the Taliban or any other "associated forces" began to threaten the United States [http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120061], "Then we might have to look at different authorities or extended authority or adjustment of authority to go after that organization."
Sheehan added that "when hostilities with al-Qaeda end, the AUMF will no longer be in force," ignoring the verified, self-perpetuating nature of the "global war on terror" in that American militarism has only increased hostilities worldwide [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/12/04].
"This is the most astounding and astoundingly disturbing hearing I have been to since I have been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today," said Senator Angus King (I-Maine) at the hearing Thursday.
"I'm just a little old lawyer from Brunswick, Maine, but I don't see how you can possibly read this to be in comport with the Constitution," King said. "Under your reading, we've granted unbelievable powers to the president and it's a very dangerous precedent."
"You guys have invented this term, associated forces, that’s nowhere in this document," he added. "It’s the justification for everything, and it renders the war powers of Congress null and void."
Encouraging the lawmakers to retire the AUMF, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, explained that there is "no more important distinction than the line between peace and war," because during peacetime a suspect can only be detained after full due process. Whereas in war, governments can kill at will [http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/16/us-statement-senate-armed-services-committee-aumf-targeted-killing-guantanamo].
He continued: "[T]he combination of a declared global war and the newly enhanced capacity to kill individual targets far from any traditional battlefield poses new dangers to basic rights—ones that will only grow as the US role in the Afghan armed conflict winds down. That leaves only al-Qaeda and similar armed groups but without the elements that traditionally limit use of the war power: the control of territory and a recognizable battlefield. To paint the problem most starkly, might a government that wants to kill a particular person simply declare “war” on him and shoot him, circumventing the basic due-process rights to which the target would ordinarily be entitled?"
Calling the AUMF a "blank check written in advance," Roth added that although President Obama has formally dropped the Bush administration’s use of the phrase "global war on terror," he noted that their interpretation of the rule "looks very similar."